One would have thought, on an occassion such as this when we were called upon to abolish one House of the Oireachtas, that fairness to the Dáil, if not courtesy to the Seanad, would compel the introducer of such a motion as this to attempt to make at least some case for that motion. I consider that it was an act of discourtesy to the Dáil, an act uncharitable in itself and unkind to a body that has worked well for the past 12 years that something has not been said by the leader of the majority in Dáil Eireann than merely to throw a resolution such as this before the House and to say to the docile people behind him, "Vote for that." From a political leader or statesman, at all events, from the President of the Executive Council, one would imagine that before this type of reckless legislation was indulged in that he would at least be man enough to give some reason and make a case for his motion—that he would first present something to Dáil Eireann for criticism, or alternatively, for discussion.
There have been unmanly acts done in this House from time to time. Thank the Lord they are rare, but perhaps the unkindest and the most unmanly thing that was ever done is the way and the method in which it is proposed to abolish the Seanad. Does it matter one bit whether the Seanad contains a minority or majority of Fianna Fáil representatives? Should it not at least be recognised that these men and these ladies gave 12 years' long service to this State and they did their work well, fearlessly and conscientiously? Whether we as politicians agree with their findings in the Seanad in every case or not at least a case should be made against it before that House is sentenced to death. It may be said that the case was made before. But nobody knows better than the President that the case he made previously is like Johnson's description of a net—a bundle of holes tied together. When the inaccuracies, the falsehoods, the misstatements and the misquotations were picked out of that particular statement of the President's there was nothing left but a bundle of holes. Is it that the President was unable to replace those tattered fragments of a case by any other case? Or is it that the new Republican way of leading Parliament is to act as a quitter, to funk the responsibility of making a case before the Opposition, leaving them an opportunity of replying? Are we to have the shirker's method of only making a case when the debate is over and when no remarks, observations or replies can be made? This habit of dealing with grave constitutional issues in this insulting manner is unfair to the Dáil and is an evading of the responsibility which the country imposes on the shoulders of the President.
Here we have had a Bill for four hours before Dáil Eireann, to abolish entirely one of the Houses of the Oireachtas. We have a Front Bench of Government mutes. We have a majority Party, a Party of mutes. In that four hours not one of them has been found to stand up even out of courtesy to the Dáil and attempt to state to the House why this act should be committed. There has been no one to stand up and say why we should by a majority vote abolish one of the two Houses of the Oireachtas. The only spokesman who had the courage to get up in an endeavour to make a case for the resolution is the leader of the Labour Party. It would be better for him, for the resolution, and for the Labour Party that he had followed the President's example and sat dumb. The case he made, in so far as it could be considered a case, was a case chock full of misstatements and inaccuracies. It was a case that showed he did not even consider the subject sufficiently worth while to look up figures, to ascertain facts. It was good enough just to stroll into the Dáil as one of a majority Party and make any kind of slipshod, inaccurate case, and that was a good enough fate for his own loyal colleagues in the Seanad. We had all the old clap-trap, the old Hyde Park type of oratory. We had a reference to the Ascendancy gang and the Seanad labelled as so many creatures under the control of one political Party; a group of creatures who passed without comment, without question any and every type of legislation introduced by us; a group of creatures who resisted and obstructed, altered and held up every type of legislation introduced by the present Government.
It is said that fair play is bonny play, and it is grossly unfair to the Seanad whether it lives or dies, grossly unfair to the Seanad as a whole, to have that type of statement made from any bench in Dáil Eireann. It is particularly unfair to the Seanad to have those statements made by a man who is too lazy to look up the facts and who refuses to give the figures. It is very well known, and cannot be disputed either by the Government or by the Labour Party, that during the Cumann na nGaedheal régime very many Bills were held up, amended, altered and referred back by the Seanad. It is equally true that the same occurred during the Fianna Fáil régime. I put it to the President or to Deputy Norton that that was the Seanad's job, that is what the money was voted for. If the Seanad did not amend Bills, did not delay Bills, then you would have a fair and honest and just case for the abolition of the Seanad. The Seanad was established and maintained and paid for in this country to examine, to alter, to amend and to delay Bills, and is it fair because they did their job that that should be made the cause of its execution?
When Deputy Norton made his loose, reckless statement—a statement that should have never been made by any man in a Front Bench or a back bench —that the Seanad were the creatures of a political Party, that as long as we were the Government everything went through, and that when there was a change of Government everything was held up, one would think that a man occupying his responsible position would at least feel that there was a responsibility on his shoulders to look up the figures, to ascertain the facts. In the debate on the Seanad, if he had only followed it, the figures with regard to all Bills during Deputy Cosgrave's term as President and all Bills during President de Valera's term as President, altered, amended or held up, were given in a very simple table. One would think that before that kind of wild, unjust, untrue charge was levelled at the Seanad the man making such a statement would at least look up the figures. The facts are that during Deputy Cosgrave's administration of nine years there was a total of 338 Bills, 122 of which were amended. There were in all 1,150 amendments. There were 1,120 agreed to and 30 not agreed to. Just before the Seanad goes let us be fair to it in its last few moments, if we have been foul to it for ten long years. Up to the time these figures were prepared we had two years and five months of the Fianna Fáil administration, and in that period there were 105 Bills sent to the Seanad and there were 465 amendments. We had approximately one-third the number of Bills and one-third the number of amendments. There was about the same proportion or percentage of amendments.
Is it fair for Deputy Norton, for President de Valera, or for the Minister for Finance, to go down the country before simple, honest people, inexperienced in government, inexperienced in the falsehoods of politicians, and mislead these simple, trusting people with statements so false that nobody in the most irresponsible position should utter them, not to mention a person in the most responsible position in which the citizens of this State can place a man? I have said that the President's attitude was unjust to Dáil Eireann and uncharitable to Seanad Eireann and that his utterances were unfair to the people. If there is a case to be made against the Seanad, let a fair, straightforward, honest case be made and do not let a case consisting of a bundle of falsehoods be the mallet that strikes the Seanad to death. The Minister for Finance, a man holding a responsible ministerial position, a man with hundreds of experts, civil servants and clerks behind him, a man with the library at his disposal and a man that occupies such a position that he should know what he was talking about before he stood up to talk— what were his references to the Seanad?
"Every Bill passed was being held up by the Seanad. Most of the men who constituted the majority against the Uniforms Bill in the Seanad were nominated by the last Government as a result of the khaki election of 1923; they were the creatures of our predecessors."
There is a statement of great gravity, of immense gravity, made by a Minister, speaking as a Minister. It is a statement that, if true, would justify the abolition of the Seanad there and then; a statement that, if false, should have brought about an immediate demand for the resignation of a Minister who so abused his position as to state that most of the men who constituted the majority against the Uniforms Bill were nominated by the last Government as a result of the khaki election of 1923. That is the statement, that is the charge.
Let us have the figures and let us view the facts. There were 48 votes recorded in that particular division, 30 against the Bill and 18 for the Bill. Of the 48 Senators, five were nominated Senators; and of those five, two voted for the Bill and three voted against the Bill. There are the facts; these are the figures; that is the statement. We had from the President himself a broadcast statement, on the eve of the election to the effect that—
"A hostile Seanad is constantly attempting to harass the Government by mutilating its measures, or wilfully delaying them."
That statement is on a par with the statement I just read from the Minister for Finance; and both are on a par with the statement made by the Leader of the Labour Party. "Give a dog a bad name and shoot him." We have had 12 long years of that kind of unjustifiable slander, aimed at the Seanad in this country. We had people for 12 long years reading and listening to that type of false, untrue, unnatural and unIrish language. We have had the Seanad bespattered and besmirched by the leaders of the Party opposite all the time. With that type of propaganda behind it should not people believe the utterances of responsible men, and so we are told there is a mandate for the abolition of the Seanad. We are told the majority of the people believe that the Seanad should be abolished. Of course they do! They believe their public leaders; they trust the word of Ministers; they believe that they would not be misled by people holding positions such as they hold. And so you get popular approval for such a measure as this.
If a great political Party was so irresponsible and so reckless in regard to truth, and if they started throughout the country, to slander the institution of the Ceann Comhairle and to utter falsehoods as to how his duty was done, to deliberately give wrong figures and statements with regard to his rulings, and at the end of all that proceed to say that it is costing so much a year, it would not take many months before you would be able to secure a mandate for the abolition of the institution of the Ceann Comhairle. But could that in any sense be regarded as a national mandate? Could that in any sense be regarded as an authority that should be recognised—a mandate secured, or a vote secured, by misleading deliberately the public mind with regard to the activities and the construction and the constitution or the personnel of a House of the Oireachtas?
Remember, the Seanad is not in the public eye in the same way that the Dáil is. The public gallery there is not utilised as it is in the Dáil. Seanad debates are not published in the daily Press or in the local Press as are debates here. It was an ideal hunting ground for dishonest politicians. It was and ideal state of affairs to get at it and, with good prospect of success, to blackguard an institution that in my heart, I believe, was, and is, and has been, over the whole run of its existence, a better House, far better, than Dáil Eireann. And as far as representative government goes, it is at least as representative as Dáil Eireann.
We have this phrase about the ascendancy gang, and the impression conveyed either by deliberate statements or innuendo, that the Seanad is, in fact, a nominated body, or even that it is something like the House of Lords and that people hold their seats there by some right of wealth or hereditary right. Did any one of these people, so anxiously out for the life of the Seanad, ever tell their followers that the Seanad is a body elected by the votes of Deputies in Dáil Eireann and the members of the Seanad? In the real, full sense it is as representatives as Dáil Eireann is, but it is more selective. Its general behaviour and the manner in which it works, and the duties it has discharged certainly call for something better than the silence of the President to-night and the slanders of the President on other occasions.
The State is what the people themselves make it. The State is, in the main, what the builders make of the State. We have had three years of slanders; destruction; three years of slander; three years of wreeking and we are to go further with the wreeking to-night. The only sensible sign of returning decency is the silence with which the resolution was thrown before the House to-night. There are many ways in which shame can be shown. We had it mentioned, time and again, we had sneers from those on the benches opposite that there are members of the minority in the Seanad, and that in the Seanad there is greater representation for the minority than in the Dáil. We are reaching a point in the history of this country which certainly years ago was proud of its Christianity, when we are going to lay down by practice, if not by utterance, that the minority are to have no rights. They are to be cut out of the picture, whether it is by amending representation or by sub-dividing the constituencies with a view to giving a smaller percentage to that group. We have that now in the abolition of the Seanad. Anyone who is not blind can see what is the fibre in the middle of every Act—to trample on minorities in this country.
I have no brief for the minority. Neither now nor in the past have I any direct association or affiliation with the people referred to as the minority. As far as I am concerned, my family for at least three generations back happened to be on opposite sides to the people who are dubbed the minority Party now, but I would say this, out of justice to those men, if the so-called partriots opposite had behaved as well to the new Irish State as the minority did, we would be a happier, a healthier and a more prosperous State to-day. Do not forget that. All you super-patriots over there, with your belated respect for majority rule, would do very well now —having recognised that principle—to start marching in the footsteps of the men who constitute the minority in the Irish Free State.