Sir, I wish to move the following motion standing in my name:
To delete all words after the word "That" and substitute the words "the Second Reading of Bunreacht na hEireann be deferred to a date not sooner than January 1st, 1938, so that a special Governmental Department be set up for the purpose of uniting and co-ordinating all the anti-Partition forces in Ireland, North and South, irrespective of political or religious outlook, organising the Irish race abroad for their assistance and support, focussing through the home and foreign Press world opinion on this grave national issue, and pressing the English Government to reopen negotiations on the reunification of Ireland, and so that, if and when a solution of the problem is found, Bunreacht na hEireann can be submitted to the whole people of Ireland for ratification or otherwise.
What prompted me to table that motion, Sir, was more or less what I read in the newspapers over the last month or more. Since the campaign for the general election opened a chorus has gone up in nearly every constituency and from every constituency, of Deputies vying with one another as to which of them would proclaim the loudest that the unity of Ireland is essential and must be striven for, and that the quicker the unity of Ireland is achieved the better. Not only have Deputies of all Parties said that, but some of them have even gone a little further and said that in the new Constitution there is the framework for a united Ireland.
There is also another very important factor in connection with this to which I should like to draw the attention of Deputies in this House, and that is that, speaking on the subject of Partition, in Monaghan, about ten or 12 days ago, Deputy Cosgrave, the Leader of the Opposition, having made what I thought was a very critical onslaught on the Government, said—these may not be exactly his words—"I grant that there is more unanimity on the subject of a united Ireland in this country than there is on any other subject before the country at the present day." Not only was it necessary for him to reiterate that in Monaghan, but in the very last Ard Fheis of Fine Gael the first item that appeared in their programme was that they regarded the reunion of Ireland as the predominant national issue, and that they regarded it as their paramount duty to prepare for it. That is the attitude of the Opposition towards the question of the unity of Ireland to-day.
The Labour Party have proclaimed that policy from their platforms also. They have proclaimed that the real crux in Ireland at the moment is the separation of the North from the South. Individually and collectively, I think the Labour Party have stood for that from 1905, and even from further back than that, and I do not believe that the members of the present Government Party ever have deviated one iota during the course of the politics of the past 16 years from the principle of a united Ireland. There are others in this country who do not hold the same political creed as we do, but who also believe in the unity of Ireland. There are people who have been termed Unionists— people who have been engaged in business and in the commercial life of this country—and these people have been holding meetings all over the country, too, and the burden of their speeches also is that, until Ireland is united, commercial and financial success will not and cannot be achieved. They hold that until there is one Government for all of Ireland real financial success cannot be achieved.
I believe that the unity of Ireland cannot be, and will not be, brought about by the efforts of any one political party in this country, and it is with the hope that the Government might take the initiative in co-ordinating all these forces, to which I have referred, and which have the unity of Ireland as their objective, that I have put down this motion. I believe that a Government in office in Southern Ireland, backed up by the unanimous support of every organisation that has claims to be national in Southern Ireland, even by other organisation that have an interest or a stake in this country, could, if that effort were made, and if the effort were made sincerely and honestly, achieve the unity we all desire.
I believe that, if we could achieve unity amongst all sections down here, it would be possible, in a short space of time, to get some effective results with regard to the unity of all Ireland. I believe, further, that, if one half of the energy that was expended in the years that are gone had been put into the idea of a united Ireland, we would be further on the road towards our ideal than we are at present.
I should like to say, however, that, unlike Deputy Morrissey, Deputy Mulcahy, and other Deputies, I do not wish to cavil at this Constitution at all. I realise quite well the hard work and the labour that must have been put into the production of a document of that kind, and I may say that, as a follower of President de Valera I bow my head to no Deputy in this House in loyalty to him; and I say that I do not think it is fair or right for any Deputy in this House, from whatever Party he may come, to characterise a document such as this as so much humbug and nonsense. I do not believe that that is right. I do say, too, that another characteristic of the fair-play which has been given Deputies in this House is the instruction that has been given by the President to the people of this country in the coming election, that the fate of the Government does not hang on the fate of the Constitution. "You can vote for Government candidates," the President said in Clare, "and you can vote against the Constitution if you like. Vice versa, you can vote for the Constitution and against the Government candidates if you like. The fate of the Government does not hang on the fate of this Constitution.”
I, too, believe and hold that a Constitution such as this should not be considered as Party document. After all, everybody has got to live under this Constitution and, if the day does come in the near future when we have an united Ireland, and when another 1,250,000 people are added to the population of this State, surely it is not an unreasonable request, or an unreasonable motion to put down, that some effort should be made and that some attention should be drawn to the fact that an effort might be made to secure some way by which they would have a voice in the Constitution under which they might be expected to live later on? I know it is impossible at the present moment. I know that the laws of this Parliament affect only the Twenty-Six Counties of Southern Ireland, but I know in addition that there is a minority in Northern Ireland of 500,000 people whose eyes are always yearningly looking to the day when their deliverance can take place.
Every time I have read a speech in which I have seen the sentence recurring that there must be no coercion of Ulster, my reply invariably has been that if there must be no coercion of Ulster, there should be no coercion by 700,000 people there of the substantial minority of 500,000 people. I should like Deputies to visualise this for themselves, and I do not think I am asking for anything unreasonable. If everyone in Southern Ireland were perfectly united on this question and if pressure were put upon the English to reopen negotiations, if in addition we had that demand backed by the minority in Northern Ireland, and if, as I have stated here in this motion, we had our people in America, England, Scotland and all over the globe supporting that demand, I am not so pessimistic as to think that the British would turn down that demand.
People may say that you cannot force the British to negotiate, but I remember one occasion, as does Deputy Cosgrave and many other Deputies who were connected with the old fight, when negotiations were about to be opened with the British and the reply came across the water that they would never sit down to negotiate with murder. They even went so far as to name three men with whom it was an impossibility for them to negotiate, the three men being Michael Collins, General Mulcahy and Cathal Brugha. That all vanished before the force of public opinion. That all vanished when the eyes of the world were concentrated on the question, mainly through the efforts of President de Valera in the United States and of other men who took it on themselves to speak for their homeland although they were domiciled in foreign countries. The British negotiated with the people to whom they objected, and they were glad afterwards that they negotiated with them. I hold—perhaps I may be wrong or over-optimistic—that the pressure of public opinion, forced home by a united Southern Ireland and backed up by the support of the people whom we are seeking to liberate, would enable us to obtain a satisfactory solution of this Northern problem. It is not the first time that this was mooted. It is a strange thing that one of the factors that weighed with me in putting down this motion was a book which I read a short time ago written by an eminent English journalist, Hugh Martin, with an introduction by another eminent English journalist, Sir Philip Gibbs. Away back in 1921 when things were pretty hot, this method of procedure was first suggested in that book. I quote from page 203 of the book, "Ireland in Insurrection," in which, speaking for the English people, he said:
"There is nothing for it on our side but to put our pride in our pocket and to say quite frankly and with as much grace as we can muster: ‘Ireland, my dear, you have proved your case; from henceforth you are free. Come now and let us reason together about the future.' And this will have to be said to Ireland as a whole, not to any artificial fraction of Ireland that we choose for our own purpose or from any mistaken sense of loyalty to the remaining fraction, to set up and call ‘Ireland.' Ireland is an island in the Atlantic Ocean inhabited by the Irish."
That was from an English author, and I am still, as I said, optimistic enough to believe that the English could be brought to negotiate on the question of the partition of this country. Many golden opportunities have been lost in connection with this matter, and I am putting this forward as a detailed resolution, not as a direct negative like that of Deputy MacDermot. If Deputy MacDermot's motion were carried here it would simply mean going back to where we were, with no alternative of any kind. To the same extent Deputy Mulcahy's motion was vitiated in a large measure by the speech delivered by Deputy Morrissey, who comes along with the comment on the measure: "This Constitution will not put a loaf on anybody's table." I should not like any Deputy to take up an attitude of that kind. A loaf could have been put on the table of the people of Ireland had they accepted certain things offered to them in the past. They did not accept them, and the loaf did not come off the table.
In looking up some old papers and Press cuttings recently, I saw where one great opportunity of reuniting the country was missed at the time of the Treaty. It was reaffirmed by President de Valera in 1923 in a letter to the Irish Independent, and upon the basis of that letter I would say that Ireland could successfully negotiate a settlement even now. It was an appeal for unity on the Ulster question, and I could have almost embodied that letter in my amendment to-day. As regards the Ulster question the President said:
"Our proposals were that the fullest measure of local autonomy, consistent with the unity of Ireland as a whole, should be granted to the aggregate of those areas in which, by a majority vote, the residents demanded a separate Parliament. We were prepared to take as the unit of area for the plebiscite either the constituencies prior to the Act for 1920 or any smaller unit such as the poor law guardian or the district council areas. By that proposal Derry City and the greater parts of the Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh as well as South Armagh and South Down would be represented directly in the National Parliament. On no plea could the ‘Ulster' minority demand anything more."
I am quoting from the letter written by the President, dated 20th July, 1923, and published in the Irish Independent. Surely to goodness there is nothing unreasonable about that. Two Partition Acts were passed for this country. One was a direct Act of Parliament passed in Britain in 1920 by Mr. Lloyd George, under which the country was split in two divisions. The other—I do not want to say this by way of recrimination, and I do not want to go back into any of the controversial subjects that we have debated over and over again— unfortunately took place in December, 1925, the time of the Ultimate Financial Agreement; the time, too, of the collapse of the Boundary Commission. We all remember what occurred then. That opportunity was missed, and many other opportunities were missed. I must say this, in referring to the quotation that I have given from President de Valera, that at that time when the Treaty was discussed and this was put in as an alternative it was misrepresented all over the country and never got the fair chance that it was entitled to have at that time.
Now we can do it. We are here in this Dáil as the bigger Party in the Dáil. We are here as the Government Party in the Dáil, with the resources of Southern Ireland at our command. We are here, and the people expect us to go ahead. Perhaps we are not going quickly enough. The people who returned us returned us under no delusions whatever; the ultimate objective, the final objective of the policy of Fianna Fáil was a republic for a united Ireland. My objection to this Constitution is that it seems to me, if I may say so with all respect, that we are putting the cart before the horse. The major issue in Ireland at the moment is to get our nation first and let the people of all Ireland draft a Constitution afterwards. This is not the first time that I mentioned this matter. In certain other places, unfortunately, I was not successful. I put up a resolution and made suggestions to certain people that an all-Ireland convention could be called together, on the initiative of the Government, consisting of—I was pretty generous in the representation. I do not think I left out any body or anything—all the organisations in Ireland that pretend to be national or pretend to have the welfare of this country at heart. We would have had them from Fine Gael, from Fianna Fáil, from Labour, North and South. I hope and trust that the words which I included in that motion, "irrespective of political or religious outlook," will be well taken into consideration. We would have had Labour, North and South; public boards, corporations, farmers unions, the Ports and Docks Boards of Dublin and Belfast, the corporations of Cork, Dublin, Waterford, Drogheda and Clonmel, professional and commercial interests, southern Unionists, the universities of Belfast, Dublin, Cork and Galway. I think that that would have been a pretty representative meeting if it could have been brought about. There may have been difficulties in bringing such a thing about, but I do not think that the difficulties would have been insuperable.
This is possibly the last opportunity. I may have of speaking in this House on the subject of the partition of Ireland. Deputy Morrissey became very eloquent a few moments ago in the House upon the economic subject, and about not a loaf being put on the table by this Constitution. After all, I am afraid Deputy Morrissey is looking at only one side of this problem. It is my view—I am more convinced of this than I have ever been convinced of anything before—that it is a physical impossibility for anybody, I do not care who it is, man or woman, to make this country the successful financial and commercial entity that it ought to be while two Governments are functioning here. That is my belief. I can assure Deputies of this House, and I am speaking with the sincerest conviction, that even in Ulster there are people to-day who formerly went all out on the Unionist ticket, and they are beginning to think along different lines now. In the City of Belfast they have already established a "Justice for Ulster" league. They are not getting justice from across the water. Things have developed on those lines. I am sure Deputies in this House do not look on Partition from the proper angle.
The other day, in the Ulster Parliament, Lord Craigavon, the Prime Minister, got up and told the Deputies there, if I may so call them: "Mr. Baldwin is Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and not I." When the Constitution introduced by President de Valera, drafted by President de Valera, was brought up for debate in the Ulster Parliament, the same answer was given: "You have to deal with Mr. Baldwin and his Cabinet." I wonder do Deputies here recognise or realise for a moment that that thing which postures as a Parliament in Belfast is not a Parliament as such? There it is, ruling six counties of territory, which in my opinion have been ceded to England. We cannot call this a nation until we get back that territory. That Parliament is governed by a joint Exchequer Board in England, four men, of whom only one is representative of Ulster. That is the type of thing we are told must stay and will always stay. We are told it is the wish of the people of Ulster to accept it. To quote from Lord Craigavon's speech the other day. "Parliament," he said, "was forced on us by the English Government, that we did not want and that we do not want." It was forced upon them as a political exigency by the English. The tragedy of it is this: Here are we in this Parliament; there they are in what should be a Parliament but is not. Here we are arguing upon very minor matters, while that territory has been given away to another country, with 1,250,000 of its population, its mineral resources, its trade and its commerce and everything attached thereto.
It is no pleasure for me to get up and say those things, but I know that they will be met in the straightforward and manly way in which the President always meets criticisms of this kind. I could sit here and keep quiet. I could sit here as a Government Deputy, but after all, like others in this House, I come from an area known as the Six-County area, and I want to say with all the force at my command that time is a precious thing as far as the unification of this country is concerned. Take the education in the schools of Ulster and compare it with the education in the schools in Southern Ireland. In another 16 years —this has now been in operation 16 years—I shudder to think what the mentality will be or what the type of individual will be that will call himself a nationalist in Northern Ireland.
One day longer than the 1st of January, 1938, I would not ask the President to postpone this Constitution. We have waited 750 years, and surely we can wait six months more. Surely we can make this last effort to round up all the opinion that there is in this country behind President de Valera and his Government; take the initiative on that, and put it up to the English again on the basis of a plebiscite to be taken in the areas I suggest. Apparently Deputy Cosgrave has taken an interest in this matter for some months back, because I remember here one evening he came in with a resolution that negotiations be reopened with the English on a more comprehensive basis than that of the land annuities. The Minister for Industry and Commerce interrupted and said: "Including partition"? Deputy Cosgrave said: "Yes, including partition." The speech delivered by Deputy Morrissey now would not lead anybody to believe that the Opposition was sincere in the very first phrase that they had in the programme which they put before their last Ard Fheis: "To prepare the way for the achievement of a united Ireland, convinced that the reunion of Ireland is the predominant national issue." It is the predominant national issue. Nothing else counts; nothing else matters. I say deliberately and I say advisedly that even if the Twenty-Six Counties of Southern Ireland were a land flowing with milk and honey, even if you had here every blessing, every comfort, everything that could possibly be called prosperity, comfort and happiness, it would not be an Irish nation and it could not be an Irish nation. For that reason amongst others I have tabled this motion.
I know somebody will get up and say that I am living too much in the past. Perhaps I have been living too much in the past during the course of my public life, but I always believed that it was best for the people to learn from the past. I always thought that the mistakes of the past were a guide for the future, and that the people should get inspirations from the past. I read with interest the other day that steps have been taken in the County Wexford to carry out in a fitting way the 140th anniversary of the '98 rebellion. There were two counties that made a fight worthy of any name in '98. One was Antrim and the other Wexford. I would be false to everything that I believe in if I did not say that in the City of Belfast republicanism was first launched. It was there it had its birth. The Protestant young men of Belfast have handed on to us the republican creed that we profess to take to our hearts. From that standpoint, too, I was actuated in tabling this motion—that some effort should be made to unite our country before this Constitution becomes law. The task of doing that will be getting more difficult every day. The youth in Armagh, Dungannon, Newry and Belfast who are getting their education in these days are being taught all about Trafalgar and Waterloo instead of the glories of the Yellow Ford and Benburb. Unless something is done to alter that, these young boys and girls will grow up without a national faith or a national outlook. The position is serious from that standpoint and that standpoint alone if this nation is going to live. What is the use in going about the country at election time—we have been doing it since the Treaty was passed—and saying that we stand for a united Ireland and the abolition of Partition? I noticed that another voice to join that chorus in Westmeath the other day was Deputy Fagan, but now I say is the time to do something if we are really serious in trying to take such action as will have the effect of abolishing Partition. With a united country behind the President, let the Government take the initiative to make the Partition of Ireland at least practical politics to be discussed between this country and England.
I deliberately put into my motion the words "organising the Irish race abroad for their assistance and support". When President de Valera was in Geneva a couple of years ago I noticed that amongst the activities going on there we had one of our Cabinet Ministers appointed Chairman of a committee which was set up to decide something between Bolivia and Paraguay. He also got mixed up in something between China and Japan. That is inevitable, I suppose, if you go to the League of Nations and take part in the work of those committees. I would like to know what the position is as regards Ireland at the League of Nations, or is it possible for this question of the division of our country to be raised there at all? Surely to goodness, if we have a Government functioning here, and claiming the right to own the territory of the whole country, we ought to be able to make this question practical politics: to see that we get back the Province that was taken away from us.
In the first Bill that was put through the English Parliament in 1920, separating the North of Ireland from the South, not one single Irishman, Nationalist or Unionist, voted for it. It was imposed, in the words of Mr. Lloyd George, on Ireland as a compulsory settlement rather than give way on the big issue of the republic. Mr. Lloyd George's justification, according to himself, for putting that measure through the English House of Commons was that if a plebiscite was taken amongst the people of Ireland on the big issue, they would say that they wanted an Irish Republic. Those words which were used by Mr. Lloyd George are on the records in Hansard. Therefore, in order to stop the growing force of the movement that then existed and in order to placate world opinion, the 1920 Act was imposed on the country. In the words of Lord Craigavon the other day, they got a Parliament in the North that they did not want, while we are functioning here as a Parliament for the Twenty-Six Counties of Southern Ireland. Mr. Lloyd George could sit back in his chair and smile to himself as to how he outwitted the Irish, but he never would come to close quarters with the proposition put up to him at the time of the Treaty by President de Valera to take a plebiscite of the Ulster counties.
I have mentioned in my motion that every available form of pressure at home and abroad should be got together now to back the demand to the British to reopen negotiations on the question of the unity of this country. I do not think even the economic issues that Deputy Morrissey and Deputy Professor O'Sullivan talk so much about are more important than this. In my opinion, they are not. I remember reading a speech made some time ago by Deputy O'Sullivan in which he said that we were only keeping this thing here for talking about it, for going around the country and referring to it when it pleases us. I am glad to see, however, that it has now become a useful article for reference by Deputy Cosgrave and the members of the Opposition Party. All I will say on that is that they can never do much harm by claiming that this country is ours, that it should be reunited and that Partition is wrong.
The speech which Deputy MacDermot made in moving his amendment was one of the most barren that I ever listened to. It had nothing constructive in it. It offered no alternative, good, bad or indifferent. It was a simple negative: "We will not have this Constitution; take it out of the way, we do not want it." As regards Northern Ireland, there is one other matter that I would like to refer to. I witnessed the fury that Deputy Morrissey worked himself into as regards emigration. Nobody wants emigration either in Southern or Northern Ireland. If Deputy Morrissey will take a trip up to Belfast and go down the quays, he will see there the special sheds and special accommodation that had to be provided recently for the export of the Protestant young men and young girls of Ulster to the colonies or wherever else they liked to go. I say without fear of contradiction that the main cause of all that emigration, of all the poverty, and of anything else that is wrong politically, nationally and economically with the country is due to the partition of Ireland.
We have the position that there are two Governments functioning, that the English are allowed to subsidise the North against the South without protest, without the whole of world opinion being focussed against it, and I would say, if such a thing were occurring, that it would be equally wrong to finance the South against the North. I believe that if we take our courage in our hands, and if the President will take the initiative, the cure for everything is to come to close quarters with this question, and having done that, to do our best as a united country, plus the minority in Ulster, to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion and give the people of Ulster a voice and a vote in whatever Constitution we want them to join with us.