Deputy Davin said that it would require very serious consideration by expert lawyers, and he pleaded that at least the week-end should be given. He admitted—it was perfectly obvious—that he did not understand the implications of the measure which was passed into law yesterday. But the Labour Party followed the Government Party into the Lobby to vote for the Bill which they did not understand, and the implications of which they could not follow. I suppose they will do the same thing to-day. As Deputy Dillon has said, we regard at least one portion of this Bill as essential. I think it would not take my colleague, Deputy Dan Morrissey, very long to persuade the Chair that the proposed amendment is completely out of order. We do not wish to make that point. We merely mention it for the purpose of emphasising the fact that this measure was brought in in an ill-considered fashion, without the Government or their advisers themselves having properly or adequately considered the situation.
It was perfectly clear to us that Section 3 (2) of the Bill as it stood yesterday, did not in any way not merely recognise but regularise the abdication of the King. I indicated yesterday that we agreed with the President that it was essential for the maintenance of the supremacy of this Parliament that we should ourselves pass a Bill dealing with the situation created by the abdication of the King. I entirely disagree with the views put forward by Deputy Norton on this subject—that we are by our act to-day in a hurried fashion electing the British King as King of Ireland. We are doing something in the exercise of our sovereign rights as a sovereign Parliament which we are entitled to do and which we ought to do, so long as we remain a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It would have been more proper, I think, if instead of the procedure which was adopted yesterday to consider the question of a Bill dealing with the removal of the name of the King from the Constitution, that a Bill would have been brought in dealing solely and only with the situation created by the abdication of the King. A Bill comprising any section other than what will be comprised in this Bill in Section 3 (2) with the amendment which is to be proposed by the President is necessary. If such a measure had been brought in yesterday very little time would have been spent upon its consideration, and it would have been more in accordance with constitutional usage and practice if some arrangement had been come to with the countries of the British Commonwealth agreeing to this and agreeing that an instrument necessary to give ratification to the documents signed by the late King would come into operation simultaneously. That would have been the proper procedure. We were faced last night with the fact that the King had abdicated under the provisions of the British Parliament. So far as this country is concerned he has not abdicated yet. That is not a situation that should have arisen. It is not necessary to spend any further time on this Bill.
The very fact that we are here engaged on this Bill is in itself a very significant manifestation of the powers of this Parliament. If anybody had said in 1925 that it would have been possible for the Parliament of any member of the British Commonwealth of Nations to pass on its own mere motion and of its own volition, legislation in any way dealing with the Crown or a section of the Crown, that would have been regarded not merely as a constitutional heresy but as something approaching high treason. To British constitutional lawyers such a procedure was unthinkable. The fact that we have now every subjective matter that can be dealt with by a Legislative Assembly, within our own complete control, ought to demonstrate to the people of this country— even those who are so blind that they will not see—that under our position in the British Commonwealth of Nations we are as free and freer than many of the biggest republics in the world.
This Bill, apart from being an act that was necessary by something outside our own control, proposes to do something in addition. It proposes to confer authority on the new King and his successors to act in international affairs on behalf of this country. To my view these provisions in this Bill are completely and absolutely unnecessary. Even though yesterday's Bill has now become law, the King is taken out of the Constitution in name at least—though incidentally I still think he is there though not in name. But even if he is taken out in every place where his name or the name of his representative occurs there would have been no necessity whatever for the passage into law of Sections 1, 2 and 3 (1) of this Bill. The situation in reference to international affairs could go on just as it went on before this Bill becomes law. No new advance in the constitutional position of this country in reference to its external affairs and international affairs is achieved by Sections 1, 2, 3 (1) of this Bill. No new power is conferred on this country; no new status is acquired by this country in international affairs by the provisions of Sections 1, 2, 3 (1) of this Bill. I agree with Deputy J.M. O'Sullivan that in fact these provisions of the Bill are retrogressive. Sections 1 and 2 are completely unnecessary. They represent what merely is the present situation and the present practice; why it should be deemed to be necessary to put them into the Bill passes my comprehension. They merely express the existing practice, the existing state of affairs and the existing law of the country. Whey then put them into a statute?
Section 3 is a most extraordinary section and I am not at all sure that on its strict legal construction it may not have the effect which would, I am sure, be very welcome to some members of the Fianna Fáil Party and some of their supporters throughout the country. In fact, the effect of this Bill which is to give us half a Crown is that it gives no Crown at all; for the phrase in Section 3 (1) which purports to confer functions on the King in external affairs may in fact have the effect of there being no King at all in this country because the authority that is conferred upon the Crown by Section 3 (1) subsists only so long as the King, represented by these nations, namely, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and South Africa as the symbol of their co-operation, continues to act on behalf of each of those nations.
We are only authorising the King to act on our behalf so long as the nations of the Commonwealth recognise the King as their symbol of co-operation. Once these nations cease to recognise the King as their symbol of co-operation, the authority of the Crown to act for us automatically ceases by statute. Now, the nations of the Commonwealth never recognised the King as the symbol of their co-operation. Therefore, if this Bill passes into law as it stands at the present moment, this statute purports to state a fact which has no existence either in law or fact. We propose solemnly to pass an Act of this Dáil stating that we will allow the King to act for us in external affairs so long as the other nations recognise him as the symbol of their co-operation. But they do not recognise the King as a symbol of their co-operation. Therefore this Act never can come into effective operation and, therefore, the King cannot act at all in external affairs with the authority of this Bill, when it becomes an Act. This State achieved, as I stated to the House yesterday, something which was generally regarded as an achievement of surprising importance when it was agreed to by all the nations of the Commonwealth. We achieved that in the Imperial Conference of 1929 and in the Imperial Conference of 1930. We achieved this, that the meaning of the Crown was the symbol of the freedom of our association. The Crown so far as it existed at all in reference to the Commonwealth of Nations was the link of cobweb weight binding the nations in the British Commonwealth of Nations. That was the symbol of freedom in that association of sovereign independent States. It was the symbol of the freedom of our association. That was recognised by agreement by the nations of the Commonwealth including Great Britain. That was formally and effectively recognised by its place in the preamble of the Statute of Westminster. But it does not derive its effect or such operation as it has from being placed in or being a part of the Statute of Westminster. It derives its effect from the solemn agreement of the nations of the Commonwealth including Great Britain.
It is the link which binds them in this League of Nations. The link which binds them in this League is the symbol of freedom, the symbol of our association of which they are part. Why do we go away from that link so solemnly agreed upon at the Imperial Conference of 1929 and at the Imperial Conference of 1930 and so solemnly recognised by the British Parliament in the preamble to the Statute of Westminster? The present Government is ashamed of the phrase that the Crown is the symbol of the free association of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Will the present Government or any of its advisers show me in any document, in any agreement, or in fact in the statement of any statesmen in Great Britain anything to show that the Crown is not the symbol of our free association? The link of the Commonwealth of Nations is free co-operation, and symbol of the Crown symbolises that co-operation.
Are we ashamed of the fact that the Crown is the symbol of our free association? Is that the reason why this phrase finds its way into this Bill? I venture to say that there is not one of the States-members of the British Commonwealth of Nations who would accept this statement here that is pushed upon them without consultation with them—that they recognise the King as the symbol of their co-operation. There has been no co-operation with the Dominions, with the other States-members of the British Commonwealth of Nations in reference to this Bill. Without telling them what we were doing in this, we are pushing over upon them something which they never have stated and which I believe they never will state—that the Crown or the King is the symbol of their co-operation.
I should like to know from the President what is the meaning of this insertion, what is the meaning of this departure from what was so solemnly set down, so solemnly agreed to, after, let me say, a very, very hard fight indeed. What is the meaning of it? It must have some significance. It will have some significance in law at some stage or other. Before we make such a radical change as that the House is entitled to know where it is going and what this is going to lead to. There is in the affairs of the British Commonwealth of Nations a principle known as the principle of consultation and conference. That is the principle, as I outlined yesterday, which was substituted for the old scheme by means of which the countries formerly forming the British Empire are bound together. Those countries known formerly as the British Empire were kept together by the whip of the Dominions Office, by the instrument of the Colonial Laws Validity Act, and, chiefly, by the extraordinary power exercised over their internal and external affairs by the British or, as it was then called, the Imperial Parliament.
As the result of the Imperial Conferences of 1926, 1929, and 1930, the Colonial Laws Validity Act was swept away, the power of the Imperial Parliament was swept away, the power of the Dominions Office was completely swept away, and it was recognised that each of the Parliaments of the States-members of the British Commonwealth of Nations had precisely the same sovereign power as the British Parliament. So clearly was it recognised that this Parliament, for example, has the same power as the Parliament of Westminster, that fears were expressed that we here in Ireland would pass laws which would be binding upon the British people in Great Britain. We have power to legislate extra territorially and the question was put to us "If we recognise the powers that you seek for your Parliament, will you not be in a position to legislate by your Parliament for the people of Great Britain, that legislation having effect in Great Britain"? Notwithstanding that, it was recognised that we had that power, and we are as sovereign as the Parliament at Westminster.
But in order that these very extensive powers should not be exercised in a manner that would be arbitrary or that would prejudicially affect the interests of the other partners in this League of Nations known as the British Commonwealth of Nations, it was agreed that there should be consultation and co-operation in matters of common concern, or in matters where the interests of one particular State might be affected in any way, or might be thought to be affected in any way, by the action of the legislature or the Executive of another State. In order that such a state of affairs should not cause friction, it was agreed that, instead of the old checks and all the other powers and whips of the British Parliament, the British Dominions Office, and the British Governor-General, the principle of co-operation should be adopted between the Governments. The Crown came into it not at all.
This Bill is bringing the Crown into close connection and connotation with the principle of co-operation and consultation. It has never been, so far as I know, and I challenge the Government to produce any authority for the proposition that they propose to give statutory effect to in this Bill—that the Crown was the symbol of their co-operation. The Crown, as I said, is the symbol of freedom of their association. We were proud of the achievement of the recognition of that principle. A real understanding of the recognition of that principle by Deputy Norton would have prevented the type of speech to which we listened to-day and would, in our view, still make abundantly clear to the people of this country the position that we have under the Treaty as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, which, incidentally, is not a Commonwealth of British nations, as one that makes for greater security for the freedom of this country, that secures greater freedom for the democracy of this country than any other system that could be devised.
This principle of the Crown as the symbol of our freedom and of our free association is something that had never been thought of before in the history of political science and it would be difficult to find something that would replace it. That symbol, as the symbol of our freedom, does not interfere in any way with the exercise by the people of this country of their completest freedom, with the exercise by the Irish people, through their representatives in Parliament, of any particular freedom that they wish to exercise. It interferes with them in no way, good, bad or indifferent. Anything that is substituted for that scheme will inevitably eat into the freedom of the ordinary decent Irish person and take the ground from under democracy as we understand it at present. In passing this Bill these are the dangers that we have to apprehend. I cannot go into that to-day, but I do think it is worth while for any Deputy to try and understand what was achieved at the Imperial Conferences, particularly in reference to the Crown.
I do not agree with Deputy MacDermot, whose knowledge of constitutional law is not wide or profound, that we ought to treat the Crown in the way he suggested we should treat it. We treat the Crown in the way that it was treated at the Imperial Conferences as the result of years of hard work and of hard fighting, when it is reduced to the position of being a symbol of our freedom, something of cobweb weight. We heard talk to-day about striking the shackles from the feet of this nation. The shackles which are supposed to exist on the feet of this nation can exist only, if I might mix the metaphor, in the minds of the people who talk about such shackles. There are not any such thing as shackles on our freedom at present. Our operations yesterday and to-day are the clearest demonstration to the people that that is the position. The sooner we recognise that fact, the sooner we recognise that we are completely free, that we are freer, in fact, from outside interference than some of the greatest nations in the world under the system of polity in which we live, the better it will be for the material and for the spiritual prosperity of this country.
The last thing I want to mention on this Bill has reference to a question raised by the President, in answer to the points made yesterday, that the Act of Settlement and the Act of Succession are not parts of the laws of Saorstát Eireann. I disagree with the statement that these laws were brought over to this country, if ever brought over at all, by virtue of Article 73 of the Constitution. It is certainly a novelty for the President of this particular Executive, formed from the Fianna Fáil Party, to say that the Act of Settlement was law on December 6, 1922, that it was law in this country immediately before the Treaty was signed. I would have expected a different position to be taken up on the Statute Book of this country and recognised as the legal position in this country. Be that as it may, the position in my view, for us, is that, so far as regards these laws applying to the Crown and succession to the Crown, they are operative in this country, if at all, by virtue of Articles 1 and 2 of the Treaty and not by Article 73 of the Constitution. Articles 1 and 2 are well known to everyone and I will not repeat them. The Treaty was given the force of law in this country by the Constitution. It no longer has the force of law in this country. I want to know, if I am right in my view—if Article 73 did not bring forward these laws, and if Articles 1 and 2 of the Treaty did bring them over, if ever brought over—how we are going to operate Section 3 (2) of the Bill if we pass it into law, because the succession to the Crown hence forward, so far as this country is concerned, is to be governed by the laws of Saorstát Eireann?