Deputy Norton appears to think that the Government would have a strong political card to play in the abolition of the Seanad, and that an election held on the question of the abolition or non-abolition of the Seanad would arouse popular enthusiasm in favour of the Government, and give them an overwhelming mandate. That is a matter of opinion. I will agree with Deputy Norton to this extent, that some years ago, in consequence of the propaganda of the Fianna Fáil Party such an issue, placed before the people, would have aroused popular enthusiasm against the Seanad. The actions of the Government in the last few years, however, and the actions of the Seanad have made it plain to the people that, so far from being an institution which, as the Minister for Industry and Commerce suggested to-day, is the instrument of the minority, the Seanad is really the only safeguard which the Irish people have at the present moment for the safeguarding of their rights and liberties, as their rejection of the Blue Shirt Bill, a few weeks ago, showed.
It is a matter of considerable regret, Sir, that the real and vital issues which are raised by the introduction of this Bill have been clouded and obscured by the many false issues that have been raised by such of the few speakers as have spoken on behalf of the Government, and by Deputy Norton's speech here a few moments ago. If this Bill had been brought in in the proper spirit, and if the question that this Dáil had to consider was not whether this Seanad should be abolished, but whether a Seanad should exist or whether no Seanad should exist, or what sort of a Second Chamber we should have, or whether we should have any Second Chamber or other constitutional check in its place— if those were the questions that had to be discussed by this Dáil, we could have considered them calmly and without any Party bias, in the interests of getting a proper Constitution for this State. By the introduction of this Bill, however, the question is not merely confused, but is brought down to this, that because the Government have come to the conclusion that this Seanad must go, there must be no Seanad whatever, therefore, and no constitutional checks or safeguards for impeding the encroachment of the Executive on the rights and liberties supposed to be guaranteed. We could discuss such a measure in a non-party spirit. We, on this side of the House, hold no brief for the Seanad as it is constituted at the present moment. We tried, many a time, to get a better constitution for the Seanad. We tried many schemes to improve it, and we are still open to consider any scheme that might be put forward by the Government for a proper Seanad, or any other safeguard of the constitutional rights of the people. This Bill, however, being a Bill to abolish this Seanad, and therefore to abolish all kinds of Second Chamber government in the Constitution, is nothing but a Bill to crystallise a fit of Presidential pique, as the President's wishes and the Government's wishes in relation to this political Party that sits here in Opposition were frustrated by the action of the Seanad in throwing out the Blue Shirt Bill.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce to-day, purporting to give arguments in favour of this Bill, divided his speech, as far as I can understand it, into three parts. The first part can be dismissed as crossroads claptrap. The second part was in the nature of advice to the Opposition. I was glad that he gave that advice, because the Minister for Industry and Commerce repeatedly has given similar advice to the Opposition in the last 12 or 15 months. He says that we are incompetent and that we are not doing our job—that we are even more incompetent than when we were in office. If we are incompetent, why does the Minister for Industry and Commerce take such pains to give us advice on the matter and to give it so repeatedly? It is not because he wants us to benefit by his advice that he iterates and reiterates that we are an incompetent Opposition. Our progress through the country is becoming more and more apparent, and the best tribute that can be given to us is the iteration and reiteration by the Minister for Industry and Commerce of the allegation that the Opposition are incompetent and that we are not doing our job. If we were not doing our job, it would be clearly apparent to the Government, and more clearly apparent to the people and it would not need to be pointed out. The Minister could sit back on those benches. Our incompetence would be quite apparent without any of his advice or lectures.
The Minister did do one useful thing in the third part of his speech. He gave us the real reason for this Bill. I understand that the President gave no reason for it to-day. The Minister for Industry and Commerce did give a reason for it. He said that he had no quarrel with the Seanad as an institution of the Constitution; that it was not with the Seanad, as one of the institutions of the State, that he quarrelled; that he had no fault to find with there being a Seanad in existence; but that what he did find fault with was the fact that the Seanad was being kept in being by a minority group, by a group representative of the minority in this country, not one of whom, he said, could get a single seat in a general election for the Dáil. Apart from the fact that that is not true and that we have in this House representatives of the minority who got elected to the Dáil at a general election, the statement made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce is quite untrue. Therefore, if it can be demonstrated that the only reason given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and the real reason, is one without foundation, then this Bill ought to be withdrawn by the Government if they have any decency. Deputy Norton said that it would be a popular measure and that the country wanted the abolition of the Seanad. It was popular because it was spread insidiously through the country that the Seanad was run by the representatives of the minority and that it was the old Castle gang, as they called it, that was still running the Seanad and standing in the way of the progress of the people. Let us see into that. I have here the Seanad debates, volume 18, No. 8, and on page 875 can be found the names of the people who voted for or against the Blue Shirt Bill. On page 875 the names of those who threw out the Bill by their votes are to be found. There were thirty of them. Their names are here to be seen. From their names you can see their political records and opinions. There were 18 people who voted for the Blue Shirt Bill in the Seanad—many of them, incidentally, put into the Seanad by the votes of Cumann na nGaedheal— but there were 30 that voted against the Blue Shirt Bill, and of those 30 there are only four individuals who could, by any chance, be held to come within the ill-natured description given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to-day—the Granards and the Jamesons. The representatives of the minority in this country who voted against the Blue Shirt Bill, according to that official record, number only four. Perhaps I am wrong in putting it down merely at four. At its high-water mark, eight is the number. Out of that list of 30 people who voted against the Blue Shirt Bill, by no stretch of the imagination can anybody get any more than eight people who could be held at any time to have been Unionists and to have held the opinions of the minority in this country before the Treaty. So that the Blue Shirt Bill, which caused this Bill to be introduced was thrown out by people who have given very great patriotic and public service to this State and not, as the Minister for Industry and Commerce said, by the ex-Unionists.
I am not ashamed to make the public declaration in this House that many of the people who have given the greatest public service and the most unselfish public service to this State since the Treaty was signed are to be found in the ranks of those who were formerly called Unionists and are numbered in the minority in this country at present. Many of them have given very useful public service, very unselfish public service, and all they get is the ill-mannered taunts which the Minister for Industry and Commerce uttered to-day. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has given as the only reason, the real reason why this Bill is introduced, that the minority in this country is standing in the way of the progress of the people. The facts are there. Amongst those who voted against the Blue Shirt Bill only eight, at the very highest, can be said to represent the minority in this country. So that the Blue Shirt Bill was thrown out in the Seanad by a majority which did not reckon among its ranks a single member of the old Unionist gang, as Deputy Norton, I suppose, would call them.
There is a lot of talk about majority rule and majority rights. Minorities even in a democratic State have rights as well. What is often forgotten, and what is forgotten by the present Government, is that majorities have duties as well as rights. When the President says, as he said histrionically in the Seanad in a Blue Shirt Bill debate: "There is no cause for which I would be more willing to give up my life than the preservation of the rights of individual citizens in this country," he ought to remember that individual rights carry with them individual duties; that constitutional rights may be over-insisted upon; and that what we want in this country is, not so much this clap-trap, these histrionics about individual rights and liberties, but insistence upon the fact that these individual rights and constitutional rights of the citizen are best guaranteed by the individual citizen remembering the fact that he has his duties to the State and to his fellow-citizens.
This Bill is alleged to be in fulfilment of a clear mandate from the people, according to the President and the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Why did it take so long for the President and the Government to fulfil their duties to the people? It is true that the President, in a manifesto issued to the electors on 20th January, 1933, stated as follows:—"We propose to abolish the Seanad as at present constituted," but he added, "and, if it be decided to retain a second Legislative Chamber, it is our intention to reduce considerably the number of its members." That was what he proposed to the people. That is what he can claim as a mandate from the people for doing—to abolish the Seanad as at present constituted. But that is no mandate, on any interpretation, to uproot from the Constitution, that has been in existence in this country for eleven years, the institution of a Seanad, to change the fundamental character of the Constitution by turning the parliamentary institutions of this State from bicameral parliamentary institutions to unicameral institutions.
Let us assume that he is right in his claim, and that it was a mandate from the people. What has kept him from fulfilling his duty to the people in accordance with that mandate? Fifteen months have elapsed since the election. We have had a Bill to deal with the Seanad since that time. A Bill was introduced some months ago and passed through this House to carry out this mandate and it was not a Bill to abolish this Seanad, which to-day is put forward as such a menace to the rights and liberties of the people and to majority rule. There was no necessity to abolish it some months ago. Because, as I said, of a fit of Governmental, or rather Presidential pique, it is necessary now to abolish this Seanad. It is necessary to abolish this Seanad because, as the Minister for Industry and Commerce has repeatedly emphasised, this Seanad is being governed by the minority. I have demonstrated the falsity and the unsoundness of the Minister's argument. But because, for whatever reason, this Seanad is to be destroyed, then the Government must go further and do away with every sort of Second Chamber institution, without any consideration whatever.
That they gave this matter no consideration whatever is demonstrated by the facts. We had, as I say, a Bill introduced and passed through the Dáil to curtail the powers of the Seanad and there was no hint that the Seanad was to be abolished. Then the Blue Shirt Bill was defeated and thrown out in the Seanad and the very next day this Bill was introduced. It was not introduced after Question Time, as one would expect. I believe I am right in my recollection that the Bill did not even appear on the Order Paper. The long and the short Titles of it were circulated in the afternoon. Anybody who has any experience of the way these matters are worked in practice can easily visualise what happened. The President went away from the Seanad that night in a towering rage. Civil servants although they are hardworked and often work after hours, and have had their salaries cut, had gone home, I suppose, by eleven o'clock at night. They were not there until the following morning. Word was sent down to the Attorney-General's Department to tell the parliamentary draftsman to produce at once the long and short Titles of a Bill to abolish the Seanad and on even such a simple matter as that— the long and short Titles of a Bill for the abolition of the Seanad; that is all the Dáil office wants in order to introduce a Bill—it took until 6 o'clock to get those long and short Titles. It is quite apparent that this was ill-considered and it is obviously ill-conceived and the effect of it will be not merely to deprive this country of a Seanad or of a Second Chamber of some kind, but to deprive the democratic institutions of this country of some sort of constitutional check which will ensure for this country, far better than any clap-trap about democratic rights and the rights of the majority of the people, that these democratic rights and liberties will be guaranteed and will be practically effective. This Bill will take away that check and any possibility of any check from the Constitution and it will lead to this in effect and in practice. When this Bill is passed, if it ever comes into law, not merely will we have a truncated Constitution but we will have no Constitution. The Constitution will have sunk then to the lowest level of the meanest Act of Parliament which can be altered or amended in any way to suit any passing fit of pique, Presidential or otherwise.
The House has heard from Deputy Dillon and other speakers the powers that the Dáil will then have, and I do not intend to repeat them. I want to call the attention of the House to two fundamental rights which, as sure as we are here to-day, will be taken from us by the present Government if they are allowed to stay in power, and if their powers as a majority in this House are left unchecked. These rights are contained in Articles V and VI, the second of which says that the liberty of the person is inviolable. "No person shall be deprived of his liberty save in accordance with law"—a decree of the Executive Council will be law in an hour if they like, and a resolution of a Fianna Fáil club will be law in half-an-hour if the Executive Council wish it, or are forced into it. Article V, which guarantees the right of free expression of opinion as well as the right to assemble peacefully and without arms and to form associations, will be nothing but a mere scrap of paper. The President complained in the Seanad that he had to obey the law, and he complained of the fact that the United Ireland Party and the Young Ireland Association, the League of Youth, sought to advance its objects and its ideals under the shelter of the law. He wants to get rid of the law so that the League of Youth will be unable to advance in the way it has been advancing, strictly according to law and under the protection and cloak of the law.
That is the real truth of this Bill, and that is the real reason why this Bill was rushed without consideration and in a fit of temper into this House. The President, in the Seanad, said:—
"The changes that have come to the movement since
—that is the League of Youth movement—
are changes by which they might be able to advance more easily under the shelter of the law."
He complains that the League of Youth advanced its objects through the instrumentality of the law, that, through the medium of the independence of the judiciary, the illegalities of the Government were exposed to the people of this country, and that through the medium of the law courts the outrageous claims that were put forward by the Government, in the case before the Military Tribunal some few weeks ago, were exposed in all their native folly. Once any check that exists, or is capable of existing, is removed, the Government can deprive the Opposition—they can deprive the Labour Party, too, if the Labour Party do not come to heel—of any right they have to exist as a political Party within the law. They will change the law to suit themselves and, as Deputy O'Sullivan pointed out this evening, they are incapable of appreciating the distinction between legality and morality. When the President insists that he is ready and willing to lay down his life in the cause of individual liberty, he forgets the duty he owes to the minority in this country. He forgets that the minority to-day may be the majority to-morrow as, assuredly, it will. But he will have an instrument in his hand to do injustice legally, and that is what he wants and that is at the back of this Bill.
There is an even greater danger than that, grave as it is. I suppose that people can put up with tyranny for a considerable length of time. It will be remedied in the end. What is going to become of the economic situation? Who is going to have any trust in this country or in this Government? Every act of the Government over the last two years has led to uncertainty and unrest, and the National Loan, in the last few months, testified to the confidence that people have. Where are you going to get the money to put into your industries if you do succeed in getting the industries started? What guarantee have people, who are even supporters of the present Government's policy of tariffs, that if they put their money into industries in this country, a Government elected, if you like, on a snatch vote in the country, or a rushed election, will not come in and sweep away the tariffs and sweep away their money? What guarantee is there that people who lend their money to the Government for their schemes and for the relief of distress and unemployment are not going to have, in an hour or half-an-hour some afternoon, their money expropriated from them by legislative decree of the Dáil? This Bill is going to create economic unrest and political unrest. The Seanad was an unpopular body in the country, because, as I say, of the insidious and false propaganda of the Fianna Fáil Party. The Government has almost succeeded in making it a popular body in the country and, certainly, at the present moment, it is far more popular than the popular Assembly in which we have the honour to sit to-day.
On Deputy Norton's point, that the Seanad during the last 11 years has been nothing but a rubber stamp, recording the wishes and the will of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party and the Government formed from the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, I should like to refer Deputy Norton and his colleagues, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, too, to a speech made by Senator Douglas on July 11th last year, when the Constitution (Amendment) Bill dealing with the Seanad was going through the Seanad. That speech will be found in Volume XVII, No. 1, commencing on column 9, of the Official Debates, and there set forth on the records of the House for all to read, is a complete refutation of the argument put forward so meanly by Deputy-Norton to-day and hinted at in the argument put forward by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The facts and figures are set forth in tabular form on the records of the House. Senator Douglas quoted the Minister for Justice in a speech he had made during the election campaign, in which he said that every Bill they had passed was being held up particularly by the Seanad, and he quoted the President:
"A hostile Seanad is constantly attempting to harass the Government by mutilating its measures or wilfully delaying them."
I do not intend to read out these facts and these figures which were compiled by Senator Douglas. They can be got by any Deputy, whatever Party he belongs to, who has any remnant of political honesty left in him, and if he will read them fairly and impartially he will see that the Seanad, so far from being a mere tool of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, so far from being merely run, as the Minister for Industry and Commerce so falsely alleged to-day, for the representatives of the minority in this country, did useful public work over that period. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, in his gibe at the Opposition, while admitting that the Seanad, even during his period as a member of the Government, had done useful work and usefully amended Bills sent up to them by the Dáil. He had not even the decency to give them credit for their public work, but said it was because of the incompetence of the Opposition that the Seanad had to amend the Bills that went up. Then he went on, very curiously and paradoxically, to quote some sort of a statement of, I believe, Deputy Hogan, the ex-Minister for Agriculture, that they never sent up a Bill that was not capable of being amended by the Seanad. The Minister evidently meant to say that the Cumann na nGaedheal Party were as inefficient as a Government as they are as an Opposition; that after the Bills which they had fostered and introduced in the Dáil had passed the Dáil and gone up to the Seanad they were so badly drafted and ill-considered that they had to be amended by the Seanad. What was the Opposition doing? Why was it not doing the job which the Minister for Industry and Commerce accuses the Opposition of not doing now? The Minister said that the Seanad, during our period as a Government, had to amend the Bills because they were so badly done by the Dáil. He was here as an Opposition, and what was he doing?
I come back again to my original thesis that false issues have been brought into this debate, and that this Bill is introduced in a fit of ill-considered anger and pique by the President, the result of which is going to be fraught with very ill-consequences to the country. We could, as I say, and as I maintain, consider impartially whether or not we should have any Seanad, and if we decide to have a Seanad, what sort of Seanad. We could even consider whether Deputy Norton's amendment is worth thinking about, and whether a Referendum is the proper form of procedure. We could consider whether, if there was a Referendum, the present Government would allow the people to register their ruling or wishes through the Referendum, or whether they would allow their associates to use the gun, and through intimidation and personation make a farce of the Referendum as they made a farce of the parliamentary register. At all events, we could here consider in a constructive spirit what is the best kind of parliamentary institution we could have in this country. We are not given that opportunity because the President is too cross with the Seanad, and because he is too cross with the Protestants, according to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The President is cross with the Protestants, and because he is cross with the Protestants we must get rid of this Seanad; because we must get rid of this Seanad we must get rid of every Seanad. The President said, in introducing this Bill in the Dáil a few short weeks ago: "I, for one, have not been able to devise a solution nor has any solution been offered for the problem of a distinctive Second Chamber, so constituted that one could depend upon an independent judgement on public affairs and any public matters that would be submitted to them." Because the President cannot think of a constitutional scheme therefore democracy must be allowed its full reign.
I pointed out, during the discussion on the County Council Electoral Bill some months ago that if there was over insistence on democracy there was going to be a violent reaction in this country against democracy. That is a real danger and a grave danger. It is a danger which is present to the minds of those people who have the rights and liberties of the people of this country far more at heart than those who prate and prattle about individualistic liberty. There is a tendency to forget the rights of the minority; to think that every cross roads orator, because he has a glib tongue and no conscience and can get votes, can come into this Dáil and say: "I am the representative of the people of Ireland because I belong to a Party which happens to have scrounged a majority in this Chamber." If this Bill is passed, a minority Party in this House may rule this country in the name of democracy. If this Bill is passed the Articles of the Constitution providing that Parliamentary elections are to be held on principles of proportional representation may be swept away in half an hour, and the constituencies rigged to suit the Party in power. Then thinking, perhaps, that they have lost the confidence of the people or that if they stay in any longer the chances of getting back will be seriously jeopardised, they decide to go for election on the straight vote and rigged constituencies, and they come back with a majority of one in this House, but representing a minority— and a very big minority—of the votes cast in that election. That has happened before this. It has happened in the British Parliament, and it could easily happen under the system I have adumbrated. That Government, with a majority of one, representing a minority of the votes cast in that election, could pass an Act in half an hour extending the lifetime of the Dáil, or doing away with sittings of the Dáil for ten or 20 or 60 years if they so wished.
In the interests of democracy itself, according to political philosophers who have given this matter thought, it is absolutely essential that there should be some restraint on the actions of democracy. If there is not some check, then democracy is going to go down. There is going to be a reaction against democracy, and the individual rights and liberties which are so strongly insisted upon, at the expense as I suggest of individual duties to the State, will be gone, and perhaps gone forever. The duty of this House is to sit down and think what is best for this country in the circumstances of this country, with the people largely— as I pointed out on a previous occasion —politically uneducated. You are not going to get this country free, you are not going to give them democratic freedom which will properly and justly guarantee to them their real rights and liberties, unless you put some sort of a check on democratic action. We do not stand here, as has been suggested by Deputy Norton and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in adoration of the Seanad. We do, however, say that there must be some check on democracy if democracy is to succeed. Because we have real democracy at heart, because we believe in the rights which our predecessors put into the Constitution and guaranteed to the people of this country, and because the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, of which we are the successors, gave to this country the most democratic Constitution in the world, we believe in democracy, and believe that democracy should be safeguarded. We believe that the Government, in introducing and carrying through this Bill, if they do carry it through, will be hitting the death blow at democratic rights in this country.