I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 8, Article 9, section 1, in sub-sections 2º and 3º before the word "citizenship" to insert in each case the words "nationality and".
Vol. 68 No. 4
I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 8, Article 9, section 1, in sub-sections 2º and 3º before the word "citizenship" to insert in each case the words "nationality and".
I move amendment No. 2:—
In page 12, Article 12, Section 3, sub-section 1º, to delete all words after the word "dies" to the end of the sub-section and substitute the following words:—
"or resigns, or is removed from office, or becomes permanently incapacitated, such incapacity being established to the satisfaction of the Supreme Court consisting of not less than five judges."
I move amendment No. 3:—
In page 12, Article 12, Section 3, before sub-section 2º, to insert a new sub-section—
2º A person who holds, or who has held, office as President, shall be eligible for re-election to that office once, but only once.
This is simply separating the end of a sentence from the section and making it a new sub-section.
I am not quite clear about the position here. I should like to know if a disqualified President has the right to nominate himself for election.
As far as this is concerned he would have the right, the point being that if he were disqualified in what way was he disqualified? Was it from permanent incapacity? I do not know how long the period would last. There is nothing, as far as I can see, to prevent a person who has been President at any time going on for election and nominating himself once and only once.
I move amendment No. 4:—
In page 12, Article 12, Section 3, sub-section 2º, to delete the words "more than sixty days before" and substitute the words "later than, and not earlier than the sixtieth day before, the date of".
There was no limit to the time from nomination.
I move amendment No. 5:—
In page 14, Article 12, Section 7, to delete the words "in the manner" and substitute the word "as".
This is a drafting amendment.
I move amendment No. 6:—
In page 22, Article 14, Section 1, to delete the words "in the manner" and substitute the word "as".
Leasú a haon sa Ghaedhilg.
Cadé an tairisgint atá os ár gcóir?
Go nglacfar leis an mBrollach seo.
Gan aon bhaint leis an mBeárla?
'Seadh. Bhí an Beárla againn go dti seo.
Sé an leagan Gaedilge atá os ár gcóir anois. Níl romhainn ach san.
Cheapas gurab é an rud a bhí á dhéanamh againn anois ná ag rá: an bhfuilimíd sásta gur Gaedhilg cheart an Ghaedhilg atá ar an mBéarla?
'Seadh, sin é é.
Sin í an cheist, an bhfuil an bhrigh cheadna leo.
Ní thuigim conus a théigeann siad mar a chéile.
Do I understand that all this is going to be debated in Irish?
As Deputies choose.
That is a matter we ought to be clear about. You, Sir, say that the question before the House is, that this be accepted as the Preamble. I want to vote against this, not as the Preamble, not because of anything in it; but I want to vote against this and against every one of the propositions before the House here to-day. What we are asked to do is: we are asked to take something amended and printed and put before the House in its final form for the first time on Saturday—the translation of the English text. The House has been asked to say that it approves of each one of these Articles in Irish as a translation of the English Articles. If you say that what is before the House is "Go nglacfar ag an Dáil leis an mBrolach so", that is not the same as asking the House to agree to the proposition that what is written down here in Irish shall be accepted as the Irish version of the Constitution. I think it is unfair to the House and certainly makes the position with regard to the Irish language in this business more ridiculous even than it is, if what we are being asked to do is not made clearer than it is at the moment.
We have discussed this matter a number of times. If the point is that a majority of Deputies, in fact the great majority of Deputies, do not understand the Irish language and, therefore, are not in a position to pass judgment upon the text, I have nothing to say to that; it is a fact that nobody can deny. At the same time, on both sides of the House we have Deputies who understand the Irish language sufficiently well to be able to say that, so to speak, one is the obverse of the other; in other words, that the two correspond. We want to have here the fundamental Irish text of the Constitution, and we proposed, and I understood there was no strong objection to it, that those of us who know the language sufficiently well to pass judgment on this matter should go through these Articles one by one to see whether there was any legitimate criticism that could be offered as to the translation; whether, in fact, the Irish text did give effect to the will of the House as indicated by the English text. Having gone through it in that way the proposal would be, that the Constitution as here before us should be approved and submitted to the people, it being understood that the Irish text was to be the foundation text; in other words, if there was a difference between the Irish and the English texts, that the Irish text should prevail. I should like to hear from the Deputy what suggestion he has to make to the opposite—what suggestion he has to make as to how to deal with it better. We have either to say that the Irish text shall not be the foundation text or that it shall be. Is the Deputy going to suggest that it should not be made the foundation text?
At the moment, I am dealing with the point of order, and the President makes the point which I am making much more important, because he tells the House that it is his intention that, the Irish text being passed, if there is a difference between the Irish text and the English text, the Irish text will be the law.
Therefore, the matter which has been under discussion so long by the House up to the present will not be the law, but something which is passed into Irish, and passed into Irish which they saw for the first time in its present form on Saturday morning last. It emphasises again the point which I wish to make as to what the motion before the House is. Therefore, I ask again, what the motion before the House is.
The Standing Order which was adopted for the purpose of dealing with this Draft Constitution states that, at the end of the Report Stage, the question put shall be:
"That the Draft Constitution be received for final consideration."
According to Article 63 of the Bunreacht the Irish text shall prevail in case of doubt. In a memorandum, which was circulated at the request of Deputies, it was suggested that after such an interval as might be necessary for translation of the English text the Draft would come forward for reconsideration and be recommitted to a Committee of the whole Dáil for examination of the Irish text Article by Article from the linguistic aspect. I take it that the Dáil is now asked to agree to these Articles as corresponding in meaning to the English text.
I understand from what I heard that the Irish text is to be the final and fundamental interpretation of this Constitution. I understand from Deputy Mulcahy that it is a type of Irish which only experts understand: that is to say, that it is Irish which the ordinary speaking people would not understand.
No. I have not said anything at all on the subject.
Deputy Mulcahy has certainly confused me somewhat. Anyhow it makes no difference to what I wish to say: that this Constitution, which is to be discussed now in its final form in Irish, will not be understood by the vast majority of Deputies on both sides of the House; and it certainly will not be understood by the vast majority of the people outside the House. Surely it is not too late to allow common sense to intervene and let a committee of experts get together in some of the rooms to see that the Irish and English texts do not conflict. We cannot render any assistance here. I am sure that only four or five Deputies on each side of the House can render any assistance in the matter. It is absurd and a waste of time to have the matter brought up here, no matter what agreement took place in the past, to see if this House can render any assistance.
These texts, of course, have been compared by experts who have been working on them for several months. The Irish text has been examined. These texts are intended to be as close a rendering, one of the other, as it is possible to have. The purpose of bringing it before the House is to bring it out for consideration by the members of the House on both sides, so that each side will have, not merely the assurance that we can give from the point of view that this has been carefully examined and that the experts have agreed that it is a faithful rendering one of the other, but also the assurance that they can get by members of both sides of the House examining it and satisfying themselves that the intention of the House as a whole, as given evidence of in the English version, is borne out in the Irish version. All this was discussed some time ago with Deputy O'Sullivan, and I thought we had reached some understanding about it.
Do léigheas an Bunreacht so, an Béarla agus an Ghaedhilg, go cúramach, agus cé ná haontuím le gach ní ata ann, deirim-se, gan aon spleadhachas, gur aistriú cruinn maith beacht ar an mBéarla é. 'San réamh-rá, ní dóich liom go bhfuil an innscne i gceart mar atá sí san chead chuid: "In ainm na Tríonóide Ró-Naomhtha is tobar don uile ughdarás agus gur chuice, ós í is crioch deireannach dúinn, is dírighthe ní hiad amháin gníomhartha daoine ach gníomhartha Stát".
Má táimíd chun dul isteach san mBunreacht mar sin, cathain a bheidh deire leis, agus cad é an toradh a bheidh againn dá bhárr?
Chuirfinn síos leasú ach amháin go raibh leasú ann in ainm an Teachta Mac Pháidin. Ach ní dóich liom go n-abrochadh aon Ghaedilgeóir sa Tigh seo nach aistriú cruinn ciallmhar an t-aistriú so atá ar an nDréacht Bhunreacht. Tá an Béarla agus an Ghaedhilg ar aon dul le chéile, fé mar a thuigim an scéal. Dá mbeadh orainn an Ghaedhilg agus an Béarla do chur i gcomparáid, focal ar fhocal, thiocfadh linn dhá mhí do chailliúint leis an obair.
Sin é an rud atáthar a d'iarraidh orainn a dhéanamh.
Ní hé. Tá an Ghaedhilg os á gcóir le sé seachtaine.
Fuaramar é seo maidin Dé Sathairn.
We have a statement from the President that this has been very satisfactorily put together by experts; we are prepared to credit that. We have a statement from Deputy Breathnach that while he would correct a few genders here and style there, he is convinced that this translation is a faithful rendering. I do not think the House can do better than accept from the Deputy and from the President a statement that it is the Irish rendering of the English that is being discussed here. Deputy Breathnach raised the point himself which shows how long we could be considering as to whether this Irish translation is a right rendering of the English. The experts told us suddenly on Saturday morning that instead of "leasúgha" they are going to have in the Bunreacht "leasú". In page 13, Article 12 of the Bunreacht, instead of talking about "seasca lá" they are in future going to talk about "seascmhadh lá".
Focal eile ar fad isea é sin.
Ba mhaith liom a bheith ag eisteacht leis an Teachta ag cur síos ar cad na thaobh a baintear amach "ughadh" agus a cuirtear isteach "mhadh" sna focail "seasca" agus "seascmhadh".
Is the Deputy disputing the grammar?
We are asked to accept from the President that the experts have made a correct Irish translation of the English.
I shall speak in English because Deputy Mulcahy has spoken in English and because I want to make this clear to the people who do not know Irish. The Deputy has had this rendering of the English text before him for the past six weeks.
I got it on Saturday morning.
The Deputy had it before him for six weeks. I announced some days ago that I had set up a committee. The Deputy knows that people have certain views about the spelling of Irish words, just the same as people have about the spelling of the English language. I set up a committee to get agreement and a move forward in that direction. What you have got here in the Draft submitted on Saturday is simply a revision of the spelling in the original Draft. Nothing more. It has been a very limited provision at that. The amendments that are being brought in here and the change in the text are simply amendments of the Irish rendering of the amendments that were brought in, in English. These were not very numerous and the Deputy, if he desired it, could very well have compared the old text with the new text. He had it in his hands for six weeks and he would have had no difficulty in satisfying himself as to whether the amendments represented English amendments or not. What I expect the House to do is not to take the question of spelling and questions of style. I suppose everyone of us would have different spellings of some words and different styles even if we were to get the same meaning. I suppose every single Irish speaker who would sit down to turn this Draft Constitution into Irish or to give in Irish the substance of the intentions of the House would have a style of his own. In addition, there are points in grammar about which, as in English, there would be differences as to style and spelling. Deputy Fitzgerald was talking here about collective nouns and people using the plural pronoun in connection with collective nouns. A thing I always hate is to use the plural for Government but we are always doing it. On these same questions there are differences of opinion in the English language and it is the same in Irish. There are differences of opinion on such matters. It is nonsense to make mountains out of these mole-hills, and that is what is being done now. The Deputy knows full well that what we should be discussing here is not the question of style but to provide that the Draft brings out the meaning and intentions of the House in Irish as it is expressed in English. What the House should be doing at present is to be going over the Draft, Article by Article, to see if the intentions of the House, as expressed in English, are faithfully and accurately put into the Irish Draft. It is not a question of style and the raising of questions of style that will matter. It is rather much for us as yet to be discussing the Irish text.
I hope we will have a better way of doing it than this.
You will have a better way if people elect more Irish speakers to the Dáil, and there will be an opportunity of having them elected. The only way you have of getting this done is when people are elected to the House with a knowledge of the Irish language. If we want to make Irish the primary language, those elected to the House will need to have a knowledge of the Irish language. If our schools are doing their work successfully, we will have Deputies elected here who will know whether the meaning conveyed in the Irish text is the meaning that was intended to be conveyed or not. On the question of the Preamble, you have a feminine noun and a feminine objective pronoun. That is all that is to it. It is not a question whether it refers to the masculine or feminine. Instead of "ní hiad amháin" we have "ní hamháin". Since the amendment was put on the Order Paper I have had the Preamble examined and I am quite satisfied that this translation here, and some others I have here, are renderings of the ideas into Irish as good as you can get. Of course, different people will have their own style and you cannot get over that.
Iarraim cead ar an nDáil leasú a haon do tharraing siar.
Níor tairgeadh an leasú.
Tairgim leasú Uimh. 2:—
Leathanach 5, line 2, an Brolach, na focail "hiad amháin" do scrios amach agus an focal "hamháin" do chur ina n-ionad.
An Brolach, fé mar a leasuíodh é, aontuithe.
Tairgim leasú Uimh. 3:—
Leathanach 7, Airteagal 1, an focal "do-chaillte" do scrios amach agus an focal "do-shannta" do chur ina ionad.
Airteagal 1, fé mar a leasuíodh é, aontuithe.
Airteagal 2 go dtí 8 aontuithe.
Tairgim leasú Uimh. 4:—
Leathanach 9, Airteagal 9, Alt 1, fó-alt 2º, na focail "náisiúntacht agus saoránacht Éireann d'fhagháil agus do chailleamhaint" do scrios amach, agus na focail "fagháil agus cailleamhaint náisiúntacht agus saoránacht Éireann" do chur ina n-ionad.
Tairgim leasú Uimh. 5:—
Leathanach 9, Airteagal 9, Alt 1, fó-alt 3º, na focail "náisiúntacht agus" do chur i ndiaidh an fhocail "cead".
Tairgim leasú Uimh. 6:—
Leathanach 9, Airteagal 9, Alt 1, fó-alt 3º, an focal "bean" do scrios amach agus an focal "baineann" do chur ina ionad.
Airteagal 9, fé mar a leasuíodh é, aontuithe.
Tairgim leasú Uimh. 7:—
Leathanach 9, Airteagal 9, Alt 1, fó-alt 3º, an focal "bean" do scrios amach agus an focal "baineann" do chur ina ionad.
Airteagal 9, fé mar a leasuíodh é, aontuithe.
Tairigim leasú Uimh. 8:—
Leathanach 11, Airteagal 10, Alt 1, an focal "sochair" do scrios amach agus an focal "leasanna" do chur ina ionad.
Airteagal 10, fé mar a leasuíodh é, aontuithe.
Airteagal 11 aontuithe.
Tairigim leasú Uimh. 9:—
Leathanach 13, Airteagal 12, Alt 3, fó-alt 1º, na focail i ndiaidh an fhocail "n-éagfaidh" do scrios amach, agus na focail seo leanas do chur ina n-ionad:—
"no go n-éireochaidh as oifig nó go gcuirfear as oifig é, nó go ngeobhaidh míthreoir bhuan é agus go suidhfear sin go sásamh na Cúirte Uachtaraighe agus í coimdhéanta de chúigear breitheamhan ar a luighead".
Táimíd ag tabhairt isteach an leasú so i dtreó go mbeidh an Ghaedhilg ar aon dul leis an mBéarla.
Glacadh leis na leeasuithe seo leanas ar thairisgint an Uachtaráin:—
10. Leathanach 13, Airteagal 12, Alt 3, fó-alt 2º, fo-alt nua mar leanas do chur isteach:—
"2º. Duine atá no a bhí ina Uachtarán, is iontoghtha chun na hoifige sin é aon uair amháin eile, ach sin a mbeidh."
11. Leathanach 13, Airteagal 12, Alt 3, fó-alt 2º, na focail "luaithe ná seasca lá roimh dheireadh théarma oifige gach Uachtaráin ar leith" do scrios amach agus na focail "deidheannaighe ná dáta dheiridh théarma oifige gach Uachtaráin ar leith agus nach luaithe ná an seascmhadha lá roimh an dáta sin" do chur ina n-ionad.
11a. Leathanach 13, Airteagal 12, Alt 3, fó-alt 2º, na focail "ar an gcuma" do scrios amach agus an focal "mar" do chur ina n-ionad.
12. Leathanach 15, Airteagal 12, Alt 7, na focail "ar an gcuma" do scrios amach agus an focal "mar" do chur ina n-ionad.
Airteagal 12, fé mar a leasuíodh é, aontuithe.
Airteagal 13 aontuithe.
Tairigim leasú Uimh. 13:—
Leathanach 23, Airteagal 14, Alt 1, na focail "ar an gcuma" do scrios amach agus an focal "mar" do chur ina n-ionad.
Airteagal 14, fé mar a leasuíodh é, aontuithe.
Airteagal 15 go dtí 39, aontuithe.
Tairigim leasú 13a:
Leathanach 87, Airteagal 40, Alt 6, fó-alt 1º, i, na focail "bainfear feidhm as gléasaibh le n-a n-oiltear no le n-a nochtar aigne an phobail, mar shompla, an radió is an preas is an cineama" do scrios amach agus na focail "déanfar orgain aigne an phobail, mar shompla, an radió is an preas is an cinema, d'úsáid" do chur ina n-ionad.
Airteagal 40, fé mar a leasuíodh é, aontuithe.
Tairigim leasú Uimh. 13 (b):—
Leathanach 89, Airteagal 41, alt 1, fó-alt 1º, an focal "do-chaillte" do scrios amach agus an focal "doshannta" do chur ina ionad.
Airteagal 41, fé mar a leasuíodh é, aontuithe.
Tairigim leasú Uimh. 14:—
Leathanach 89, Airteagal 42, Alt 1, an focal "do-chaillte" do scrios amach as an dá áit ina a bhfuil sé, agus an focal "do-shannta" do chur ina ionad.
Airteagal 42, fé mar a leasuíodh é, aontuithe.
Airteagail 43 go dtí 63 aontuithe.
Tuairisc tugtha ar an mBille mar a leasuíodh é.
CEATHRU AGUS CUIGIU CEIMEANNA.
Tairigim go nglactar an Dréacht-Bhunreacht chun an bhreithnithe dheiridh a dhéanamh air.
Ceist curtha agus aontuithe.
Tairigim: "Go ndeinidh Dáil Eireann agus go ndeineann sí, leis seo, aontú leis an Dréacht-Bhunreacht." Tá an Dréacht-Bhunreacht os cóir an phobail le sé seachtaine anois agus, taobh amuich den méid atá ráidhte cheana, ní gá mórán a rá. Tá an-áthas orm go bhfuil sé de dhualgas orm an Dréacht do chur os cóir na Dála agus go mbeidh an deas agam labhairt fé os cóir muintir na hEireann. Nuair a thug mé an Dréacht seo isteach i dtosach, dubhras gurab é seo an chéad uair a bhí a leithéid de chaoi ag muintir na hEireann agus ba cheart dúinn uilig bheith sásta an caoi sin a bheith againn.
This Constitution was circulated to members of the Dáil on 30th April. It came before the Dáil for consideration on the 11th May. Its Final Stage, so far as operative amendments are concerned, was on the 10th June. It has occupied 11 parliamentary days, during which time a number of Bills were introduced and some Bills in the course of their progress were passed into law. I think about eight measures were introduced and passed into law since this Constitution first came before the Dáil. A Constitution should of itself be regarded as of prime importance. The word fundamental might be employed as qualifying the Constitution if it were not that that term was so much abused during the discussion which took place. The fundamental law of the State is of sufficient importance to warrant every care being taken in its formulation and consideration. As its provisions will affect every section of the community, efforts should be made to secure, so far as reasonably may be, that the principles it embodies, the rights it confers and the duties it imposes may be acceptable to the different sections of political thought. The framing of a Constitution requires or should require the advice and assistance of experts in moral science and political theory. And it should above all be subject to the needs and designed to secure the welfare of all the people. There has not been compliance with these requirements in respect of the Draft Constitution. This Draft is largely, if not entirely, the work of one individual. The burden of piloting the Constitution through the Dáil has rested on one Minister, the President. The decisions on points taken or rejections made were given by him and by him alone.
In the course of the discussions on the Constitution, lip service was paid to the desire that it should be considered on non-Party lines and to the wish that it should not be an issue in the forthcoming general election. At no time, either in its original construction or after it had been drafted, or during its passage through the House, was any effort made to obtain a general measure of support from different Parties in the House. Throughout it has been treated by the President as a Party measure. It has been considered on Party lines and, throughout, a stout Party vote has characterised the divisions which have taken place, and there have, indeed, been occasions when the Government Party was alone in its support of particular clauses.
During its passage, on no single issue or proposal has a free vote been allowed. The measure was conceived and introduced in response to no insistent demand from the people. While some of its provisions have occasioned alarm and misgiving in the minds of thoughtful people, it has been received generally with indifference. The members of the Dáil reflected the attitude of the people as a whole by their abstention from the discussions. A very cursory examination of the proceedings of the Dáil discloses the fact that no measure yet considered by the Dáil has been characterised by such large abstentions from the proceedings by Deputies. There was scarcely a day on which the Draft was under discussion that attention had not to be drawn to the fact that there was no quorum in the House. There were many more occasions upon which such attention might have been drawn, but members refrained from doing so.
Reference has been made in the course of the debate on the Constitution to the publication of the original Constitution on the eve or the day of the general election in June, 1922. It is, however, forgotten, and conveniently perhaps, that the original instrument was framed in the first place by a special committee of legal and administrative experts charged with that task by the Provisional Government in 1922. It had to be, and was, in fact, submitted to and considered by the members elected at the general election of 1922 to sit in the Third Dáil. It was considered by that Third Dáil in a free and unrestricted manner, save with regard to certain specified provisions, and, even on these free discussion and voting was permitted, subject only to the reservation that the Provisional Government stood over the particular provision and informed the Dáil that they as a Government made their acceptance a question of confidence. They could be rejected, but their rejection would entail a change of Government.
This Constitution is in its Fifth Stage on the eve of a general election, and will be submitted to the people for their judgment during the turmoil of such an election without an opportunity being given to them to examine its provisions or appreciate its implications. This Constitution changes very materially existing institutions which have survived a decade and a half. In words at least there has been maintained in the instrument the principle of the collective responsibility of the Government. That has been the practice for 15 years, but there has been something more than collective responsibility. We have had experience for 15 years of the independence of Ministers of the State. In this new Constitution that no longer obtains. The Prime Minister has been given pre-eminent position and power. In theory, a case may be made for the exaltation of the Prime Minister as distinct from other Ministers of State. In practice, and I have had a longer experience of its practice than anybody else in this country, it was not open to the Prime Minister to ask for and to compel the resignation of a Minister, nor was it open to him to demand and so secure the resignation of the Attorney-General. Ministers, in my view, ought to possess security and a measure of independence. In my view, the Attorney-General also occupies a position, and should occupy in this State a position in which he should not be subject to political dominion or direction. He should fulfil the duties of his office, and the administration with which he is charged, with almost judicial discretion and independence.
It is one of the new duties of the Prime Minister under this Constitution to keep the President informed of internal and external affairs. It is rather reminiscent of the British practice which prevailed in the time of Queen Victoria, and if it be an imitation of this practice it is a poor one, because in this instance the Constitution would appear to have divorced the President from all international functions.
For the ordinary citizen this new Constitution has not improved, but has rather detracted from, the rights hitherto enjoyed. The original Constitution laid down in simple, easily understandable language the rights and privileges of citizenship. Whatever rights a citizen will enjoy after the passing of this Constitution will depend upon the law now in force, a law which is open to repeal, amendment, alteration—I will not say abrogation, although a severe interpretation of the clause might give that meaning. There is no privilege or right accorded in this Constitution which is not qualified by a reservation, or otherwise restricted in its exercise by another sentence. There is scarcely a journalist in this country, outside of one whose affiliations are harnessed to the Government Party chariot, who does not feel that there are potential restrictions in this Constitution on the freedom of the Press. Freedom of speech, the right of public meeting, the equality of the sexes, are, if not actually jeopardised, put in a position in which they may easily be endangered. In so far as the instrument may be taken to be an enunciation of the rights of citizens, of the liberty of speech, or of the Press, or of associations which might be formed, the new Constitution differs materially from the old, and is a poorer explanation of, and guarantee, of the rights of the people.
Perhaps the most outstanding characteristic of the Constitution is the new functionary who is to take precedence of all other persons in the State. As originally drawn, this gentleman or lady, as the case may be, was to have privileges which placed him or her beyond and before the law. These have to some extent been withdrawn in deference to public opinion, but it does not seem to me that it is impossible to confer these immunities on this individual by law if and when this Constitution ever becomes law. The President is still left vested with unjustifiably wide powers and uncontrolled discretion. The method of his election must inevitably work to the public detriment. Although he is called the President of Ireland in the Constitution, a better description of him would be "the £100,000 President." His election will cost £100,000. Every Bill that in the exercise of his functions and of his discretion he submits to referendum will cost the country £100,000. During the last 15 years there was disagreement between the two Houses of the Oireachtas on six Bills. In the first ten years there were only two such Bills, both of which became law in accordance with the Constitution. In the last five years there were four such Bills, three of which became law in accordance with the constitutional provisions. One Bill, which in normal circumstances could have been presented for the signature of the Governor-General, was dropped by the Government. If the £100,000 functionary had been empowered to exercise his discretion in those six cases, this country would have spent £600,000. Various articles in this Constitution provide for a referendum. There can be no more important referendum than that on the Constitution. Nevertheless, it is thought wise and expedient in order to ensure the presence of the maximum number of voters to provide for a referendum on it at the same time as a general election is being held. Apparently the Government would not risk putting the Constitution to the people as a separate issue.
We must dismiss from our minds, having regard to their attitude during the last five years, any desire on the part of the Government to economise, because of the words used by the President in dealing with this matter the other day in which he appears to contemplate constant reference of issues to the people by this costly method.
The Constituent Assembly that passed the Constitution in 1922 were humbler and, may I say, wiser, than the present Dáil. Not desiring to arrogate to themselves the claim of being in exclusive possession of all political wisdom, or to be wiser than future generations, the members of that Constituent Assembly allowed a period of eight years for the passing into law of that Constitution for its easy amendment. In this Constitution no such easy amendment is allowable. We are so self-satisfied that we must make it difficult and expensive, if not virtually impossible, for succeeding generations to change the work done here in a few hurried days, and this notwithstanding that it is quite clear from the discussions on the Constitution that even those skilled in interpretation of documents find phrases and articles ambiguous and open to various interpretations.
We are now purporting to pass into law an Irish text of this proposed amendment to the Constitution. The Fine Gael Party, in office and in opposition, has given many signal proofs of its genuine desire to see the Irish language restored to its rightful position in the country. It is alleged that a great blow for the Irish language has been struck in this Constitution. The Irish text is being made the operative one in the case of disputes in a court of law. As a matter of fact the Irish text is a mere translation of the English. The Constitution was thought out and framed in English by the President. It was discussed in English by the Cabinet (if it was ever discussed by the Cabinet at all), and there are not two members of the Government capable of discussing it, or any part of it, in Irish.
The Irish text was prepared hurriedly by competent people who suffered from the disadvantage of being a Committee, of having to deal with a badly prepared English text, and with an author incapable of giving them any assistance in Irish.
The Deputy seems to have wonderful information.
No good purpose can ever be accomplished by pretence, by endeavouring to say that something has been done which, in fact, has not been done at all. It is but another example of the great precept of the Government Party that when you write some words down you have got something actually done. It is unheard of and contrary to common sense that an imperfect translation, such as the Irish text of this Constitution, should be made the authoritative version for the courts.
This Constitution was uncalled for. It has been hurriedly produced in the last days of a dying Parliament. The time spent in framing and consideration could better have been spent in discussing a solution for our pressing economic and social problems. Had some of the headlines and high-sounding principles which are written down in the Draft been given practical effect to day by day for five and a half years they might expect to receive more respect. The people to whom it is proposed to submit the Constitution for ratification are given neither the time nor the opportunity to exercise a wise judgment upon it, and in the circumstances I propose to vote against the Fifth Stage and to state that I cannot advise any citizen of this State to vote for it on the Referendum.
Before making some final remarks upon this Constitution, Sir, I want to express my personal appreciation of the conciliatory attitude the President took in regard to the various amendments that I submitted, and my gratification that a fair number of those amendments in fact, were accepted, and that certain others, if not accepted, caused concessions to be made in the direction towards which the amendments tended.
Deputy Cosgrave has complained that not sufficient time has been allowed for an adequate consideration of this Constitution. It seems to me that that complaint would come with more force if the time that was available had been used to better advantage, if there had been more eager attendance by those who regard this Constitution as disastrous and if criticism had been concentrated on points of real importance instead of being, as at any rate it seemed to me, dissipated upon false points and matters of minor importance.
It is said that this is a Party measure, and attention is drawn to the fact that the Government Whips operated in all the divisions that have been taken upon it; but I think it might be retorted that, if the Fianna Fáil Party were found voting as a unit on every amendment that was proposed, so also were the Opposition found voting as a unit, and it was sufficiently proved, I am afraid, by the whole course of the discussions, and by the observations and speeches that were made before the discussions began, that, whether or not because of the fact that a general election was approaching, there was no hope of the Opposition themselves approaching this measure in a co-operative and non-Party spirit. Whether, ultimately, the Government were to blame for that or not, it is not for me to discuss on this occasion; but as a matter of practical politics there never seemed to be a chance, from the moment the discussion—even outside this House— opened on this Constitution, that we would approach it here in the spirit of a constituent assembly with all Parties having their Whips off and individual members taking their own line on each clause we had to consider.
Now, Deputy Cosgrave has spoken of the apathy of the country in reference to this Constitution. It seems to me inevitable that on such a question as a Constitution the great mass of the people will tend to disinterest themselves: will feel, unless they can put their fingers on one or two net points that appear to them to be specially interesting, that a long, complicated document of this kind is something that is outside their scope. It also seems to me to be natural that, in the economic difficulties that are pressing upon the farmers of this country, they should feel a certain impatience at attention being given to Constitutional matters when it seems to them — and, indeed, to me — that there are economic matters of even prior importance. That is not to say, however, that I consider that this Constitution is uncalled for. I could understand a member of the Fianna Fáil Party saying that this Constitution is uncalled for. I can understand anyone who is satisfied with the present Constitutional position in this country saying that this Constitution was uncalled for; but so far as I am concerned, at any rate, I am very far from satisfied with the existing constitutional position in this country.
In the earlier stages of the discussions on this Constitution, on the Second Reading and on the Committee Stage, I indicated my own belief that it was fantastic for a document which purported, for the first time since the Irish Free State was established, to speak, not for the people of the Twenty-Six Counties alone, but for the whole of Ireland—that it was fantastic for such a document to leave out of account the feelings and aspirations of the people in the North of Ireland whom we wish to reconcile. I, therefore, proposed an amendment on the Second Reading drawing attention to that anomaly and to the tendency of that neglect to consider the feelings of these people—the tendency of that neglect, to draw us actually further away from the unity of Ireland which we all profess to desire. Similarly, on the Committee Stage, I proposed an amendment to reinsert into this Constitution the King, as an integral part of our Parliament, and a statement of the Commonwealth position. On both these occasions — both on the Second Reading and on the Committee Stage, when I made the same points that I made on the Second Reading—I received no assistance, either by speech or by vote, from the members of the Opposition. I am, therefore, still in a state of doubt as to what their attitude is on these matters that seem to me to be really the fundamental matters that we should have concerned ourselves with, when approaching the consideration of this Constitution. I should like to know, for example, in the event of the Constitution being rejected and in the event of the Fine Gael Party coming into power, whether it is proposed to restore Article 12 of the old Constitution so as to make it read as it used to read before last December: in other words, whether Deputy Cosgrave and his colleagues, if returned to power, and if this new Constitution were rejected, would insert again in the old Constitution the statement that the Legislature in this country shall consist of the King and two Houses.
Now, the Deputy, as he has stated, submitted a certain amendment on the Committee Stage, and on the Report Stage, a similar amendment which was not accepted by the Chair. Some controversy has, as I am unofficially aware, taken place on the matter. The Deputy may not, in the guise of asking what a certain political Party might do if this Constitution were not accepted by the people, and, if that Party were returned to power, what might be their attitude towards that Article, re-open discussion on a defeated or rejected amendment.
On a point of order, Sir. We are now discussing the Fifth Stage of the Constitution in a rather unusual procedure for this House. This instrument, in the judgment of the Deputy who is speaking, is of supreme importance. May I ask of the Chair a very wide discretion in what we may elect to say on this, the last Stage of a most crucial debate? It may be the only occasion upon which the Deputy, myself or the President will have an opportunity of stating categorically and clearly our views in regard to it. In these circumstances may we not ask for some wider field than the strictest application of the Standing Orders would allow.
The motion before the House is that the Dáil approve of the Bunreacht.
Deputies are entitled to discuss that Constitution as it now stands, but not to reopen a discussion on matters that have already been decided by the House.
If a Deputy elects to challenge the Opposition which has stated, through its leader, that it cannot recommend the Constitution to the people, and if the Deputy who so challenges the Opposition wishes to ask "What are you going to recommend?" are we not entitled to answer: "We are going to recommend so-and-so; we are not going to follow your lead or the lead of the Government." On these grounds, I submit that the widest liberty should be afforded to Deputy MacDermot to speak his mind and that the widest liberty should be given us to answer him.
The liberty which the Deputy demands would be very wide indeed. There were many hours of discussion of the point which Deputy MacDermot has now raised. The issue was put to a vote and defeated.
I should like to state quite categorically that it is not my desire to make debating points and it is not my desire to reopen anything. What I did want to know, in order to form an opinion——
Discretion is the better part of valour.
What I did want to know, in order to form an opinion as to whether this Constitution should be passed or not, is what is the alternative. There are two features of the old Constitution to which I, for one, attached great importance, one to which I attached a good deal less importance than the other, though I attached importance to both. There was a clause in the old Constitution which said that the Irish Free State was a co-equal member of the Commonwealth of Nations. There was another clause which made the King an integral part of our Legislature. To my mind, the second is far the more important of the two. It is quite possible to be an actively co-operating member of the Commonwealth and yet have nothing in your Constitution about the Commonwealth, but the whole Constitutional character of the State is altered if you remove from the Constitution the King as an integral part of the Legislature. It is therefore Article 12, which we abolished last December, in the old Constitution that interests me a great deal more than Article 1, which is disappearing now.
If I had to compare the Constitution which the President is asking us to pass with some ideal Constitution such as would include the King and Commonwealth and such as, perhaps, differed in various other respects from the Constitution that is being submitted to us, I should, of course, vote against the present Constitution and advise the country to vote against it, but that is not the case. What we have to do is to compare this Draft Constitution, not with something we might like to see, but with the state of things existing at the present moment. Now what is that state of things? Deputy Cosgrave has talked of the old Constitution having survived a decade and a half of experience. How much of the old Constitution has survived? Only a few pitiable fragments. The actual situation is that we, here in the Dáil, are probably the most absolute legislative Chamber in any part of the world. There is no check upon us either in the shape of a King, a President, a referendum or a Second Chamber.
When Deputies on the Opposition Benches are tempted to say that the Constitution was uncalled for, and that it was right for those objecting to it to absent themselves from the debates, I would ask them to turn over the pages of the Parliamentary Reports and to look at some of the things they were saying at the time the Second Chamber was being abolished, some of the things they were saying about the very dangers to which I am now referring—about the absolutism of a single Chamber without any sort of checks or balances to act as a brake on its activities. We are in the position that we can alter, by a Party majority of one, any single clause that is remaining in the old Constitution. We can pass any law, however tyrannical, by a majority of one. Article 2A of the old Constitution gives executive powers to the Government of the most extraordinary kind. That Article was introduced to meet an emergency, but it continues in operation as the law of the land. There is no doubt at all that if the President of the Executive Council wished to give himself a position in this country equal to Mussolini in Italy or Hitler in Germany,——
——there is nothing in our existing constitutional arrangements that could act as a barrier. The only safeguard we have at the moment is the safeguard that operates whatever your Constitution is, namely, the democratic feeling of our people and the democratic feeling of Deputies of this House. If you are having a written Constitution at all, you, of course, wish to add something in the way of safeguards. If you are setting up a Legislature you do try—in every part of the world everybody has tried—to qualify the absolutism of a single Chamber in some way or another, either by having a Second Chamber, a President, or a King with a certain right to veto, either a very modified right or a fairly considerable right, or else machinery for a Referendum. Here, as things stand at present, we have nothing, and, therefore, I am of opinion that so far from the new Constitution being uncalled for, it is urgently needed.
I need not repeat my deep regret that the King and the Commonwealth should be left out of it. I want to abstain from reviving old controversies. I need not repeat my regret that the King and the Commonwealth are left out of it, but we have not to choose between a Constitution with these things in and a Constitution with these things out. We have to choose between the shreds and patches of a Constitution that has ceased to have any value to speak of, and a new Constitution which does establish what seems to me a reasonably satisfactory system of checks and balances. Consequently, unless there should be some declaration of the Opposition that might possibly alter my opinion on the subject, my present view is that this Constitution ought to be supported; that it would be a bad thing for the country if it were not accepted by the plebiscite, and that, if it is accepted by the plebiscite, it is true that all Parties can work it reasonably well.
I am satisfied that the day must come when King and Commonwealth will go back into our Constitution. It may come sooner or it may come later, but if we are in earnest at all about the unity of Ireland that day must come. Maybe the country is not ripe for it yet. If I were to judge from recent events I would have painfully to conclude that the country was not ripe for it yet, but that the day will come when it must be done I have not the slightest shadow of doubt. In the meantime we have to make this choice, and to me at the present moment, failing some further information that might change my mind, it appears that that choice must decidedly be in favour of accepting the Constitution which is now offered to us.
Of course, if some of the things that the Opposition said about it were true, I might not be able to take that view. I might not be able to take that view if it were true that some new avenues for despotism were being opened; if it were true that something new was being done to imperil the liberty of the Press, the liberty of association, the liberty of the individual. But that is not true. All those things are in a thousand times more peril at the present moment than they will be under the new Constitution.
There was at first an effort to suggest that the new President was going to be a person with dictatorial powers. That suggestion was so absurd that it can hardly be said to have survived the discussions that have taken place here during the last few weeks. The powers of the new President are exceedingly limited. He has certain powers in connection with a referendum. If a certain proportion of the Seanad and a certain proportion of the Dáil combine in wishing for a referendum they can have one, provided that he does not think the matter too trivial. He has the right to refuse a defeated Prime Minister a dissolution. He has the right, in the early years of the new Constitution, to prevent changes of a fundamental character being made by the two Houses of the Oireachtas without submitting such changes to a referendum. There his powers stop. Those powers are of some importance but they are certainly a million miles away from constituting anything dictatorial. The President, under the new Constitution, will be a great deal less powerful than the Prime Minister. The President and the Prime Minister together will be a great deal less powerful than President de Valera is at the present moment. Consequently I repeat what I said at an early stage of our discussions, that this Constitution is much more like a move away from dictatorship than a move towards dictatorship. Deputy Cosgrave has said that the new Parliament can confer all sorts of immunities on the President. What cannot the present Parliament do? What immunities can we not confer at the present moment on President de Valera, or, for that matter, on any individual in the State? The truth of the matter is that wherever you turn in the new Constitution you find that it adds to our securities, and that it protects our liberties as compared with the present Constitution.
A great stir has been made about this question of the freedom of the Press. There cannot be anybody in this House or in this country who is more devoted to the liberty of the Press than I am, but in my judgment there is nothing in this Constitution really threatening the freedom of the Press. In countries where there is no written Constitution, the freedom of the Press depends entirely upon the love of liberty throughout the country, and the love of liberty in the Parliament. Here, too, that must always be its best defence. At the present moment, there is not a newspaper in the country that could not be closed down under Article 2A by Executive action, by a declaration that the company which owned it was an unlawful association. Although that declaration might possibly be challenged in the courts, and it might be argued once again that Article 2A was unconstitutional, or that the way in which it was being used was unconstitutional, in the meantime infinite damage could be done, by Executive action, to any newspaper that the Executive Council wished to penalise. The phrases to which objection has been taken in the new Constitution with reference to the Press, the radio and the cinema, are not phrases that I personally would have drafted, that I personally would have put into the Constitution, or that I think necessary, but I do think them harmless. I regard them as being, as I have said elsewhere, a sort of pale reflection of a certain propaganda that has been going on during the past six months. I feared that that propaganda might have resulted in some real infringements of the principles of liberty in this Constitution, but I am very glad to testify that as far as my judgment goes there are no such infringements.
There is one clause in the new Constitution, Sir, which has attracted no attention at all, but about which I should like to say a word before I conclude. Article 29, sub-section (2), reads:—
Ireland affirms its adherence to the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination.
That principle is, naturally, far from being a novelty. It is the foundation stone of the League of Nations. But, owing to the long-planned treachery of Italy, and other causes, the League of Nations has been reduced to an enfeebled condition at the present moment, and I think it does have its importance that we should incorporate in our Constitution a principle of that kind, because if the League of Nations dies, or if it becomes impotent for years to come, if the spirit is kept alive, and if the fundamental principle is incorporated in the Constitution of states, the time will come when the League of Nations will be revived and made really effective. There has been a propaganda in this country ever since the Abyssinian war broke out hostile to this principle of international arbitration. The propaganda in this country hostile to that principle has even reached the length, in certain quarters, of pretending that there is something unchristian about that principle, and that the enforcement of it by what are called "sanctions" is definitely unchristian. As the unchristian policy of sanctions has become a catch phrase in certain quarters in this country, I just want to read a few lines of the Encyclical on Peace of Pope Benedict XV, issued during the World War, which deals with this very point:—
"The bases of lasting peace are (1) right instead of force, (2) lessening of armaments, (3) arbitration.
"First, the fundamental point should be that the moral force of right should replace the material force of arms; hence a just agreement between all for the simultaneous and reciprocal diminution of armaments, according to rules and guarantees to be established, to the extent necessary and sufficient for the maintenance of public order in each State; then, in the place of armies, the establishment of arbitration with its exalted pacifying function, on lines to be concerted and with sanctions to be settled against any State that should refuse either to submit international questions to arbitration or to accept its awards."
I thought it worth while reading that extract in the hope of killing off once and for all the threat to the principle of third party judgment in international disputes, that consists in this constant propaganda, representing the doing of anything to enforce such third party judgment as unchristian. The time may be far hence when it will be possible to establish that principle in actual operation, and when it will be possible to secure the co-operation of sufficient nations to deter anybody from an act of war and aggression, but that time will come provided that we keep the right principle firmly fixed in our minds.
In conclusion, I feel that the choice being what it is, between the exceedingly perilous existing situation and a Constitution which, as I said on the Second Reading, I consider on the whole to be a good Constitution, except as regards its effect upon our relations with Northern Ireland and Great Britain, I can have no hesitation myself at this stage, having made plain at every stage my views on its international aspects, but to support it and to recommend it to all those who attach any importance to my opinion for acceptance at the coming plebiscite. If I have alluded to matters of difference during the last week or two between the Opposition and myself, I wish to say, as one about to depart from this House, at any rate, for a considerable length of time, it has not been from a desire to score points off them, but a genuine wish to establish clearly what are the issues that are at stake on this very important occasion.
I confess to being somewhat disarmed by Deputy MacDermot's concluding observations. The first part of his speech this evening was devoted to saying that the intervention of the Opposition in the debates relating to the Constitution was largely confined to making false points and to raising minor issues, and that he was left in deep doubt as to whether the Opposition was patently dishonest.
I never used that phrase.
Not the phrase, but I am afraid the Deputy is taking the infection from the President of choosing his words so that they can always be subsequently repudiated. The Deputy said the issue was clearly raised and that the Opposition ran away from it, and left him in grave doubt as to where they stood upon it.
That is so.
Deputy O Briain agrees with the Deputy. A wiseacre once said that hell had no fury like a woman's scorn. That wiseacre must never have known Dáil Eireann, because we have in Dáil Eireann a fury very much like that of a woman scorned. Deputy MacDermot devoted a great deal of his activities on the Constitution for the purpose of providing entertainment for such exalted minds as Deputy Cooney by misrepresentation of his colleagues, and he has enjoyed the applause and jeers which the more empty-headed members of the Fianna Fáil Party contributed as their meed of praise to his performance. I feel bound, lest people should be misled by that combination of the back benches of Fianna Fáil and Deputy MacDermot, to deal explicitly with certain of the charges which, coming from any other source, would be described as grave charges against the Opposition, of dereliction of Parliamentary duties and of cowardice in the presence of formidable conditions. Deputy MacDermot, while not backward in telling of his own performance, reminded us that he took an active part in the discussions, was always forward with suggestions, and was anxious to amend, but that he received no assistance from the Opposition, which confined itself to raising false points and minor issues. I should remind the House, and the Deputy in particular, that from the beginning we placed at the disposal of the House the opinions of the best constitutional lawyers in our Party. Many of us deliberately stood to one side, and I may say that on the only occasion that some of us, who do not profess to be constitutional lawyers, did intervene, we were met by insolent interruptions from the President, and not only insolent interruptions, but calculated insolence.
Our best constitutional lawyers put forward their views as to the true interpretation that would be put by the courts on certain Articles in this document, to which the President replied that this document was not drafted or moulded in legal tomes, that it was intended to tell the people what he meant. If that was so, further criticism became irrelevant. If the Constitution was not addressed to the courts, if it was not an instrument whereunder an individual citizen might vindicate his rights in the courts, then the constitutional lawyers warned the Executive what the legal consequences of certain terms or phrases in certain paragraphs are going to be.
Our best constitutional lawyers warned the Executive, warned this House and warned the country that, in the Article providing for the establishment of the Uachtaráin, grave dangers lay concealed. We directed special attention to paragraph 10 of Article 13. I shall correct that in a moment if I have named the Article wrongly; but it is the one under which any additional power can be conferred upon the President by Act of Parliament. The President of the Executive Council bitterly resented that criticism and, at a later stage, under pressure of public opinion called into being by our case, he amended that Article. Our best constitutional lawyers say, and adhere to the view, that judicial interpretation of certain clauses referring to the Press and other organs of public opinion may, in future, justify serious incursions on freedom of expression that neither this House nor the country intend to permit. Our best legal opinion is that the reference to women in the Constitution could be used by the Oireachtas of this State hereafter to justify legislation discriminating against women on account of their sex in regard to equality of opportunity in earning their bread. Rightly or wrongly, we take the view that there should be no such discrimination. We take the view that it is necessary, if we are to protect women permanently from such incursions on their rights, that it should be clearly stated in the body of the Constitution that no such discrimination will ever be made. We put down several amendments to provide for that and they were rejected.
I began by referring to Deputy MacDermot's studied attempts to suggest that the Opposition had defaulted in their Parliamentary duty and had dishonestly run away from issues that they were in honour bound to face. If it were true that the Party of which I have the honour to be a member baulked at the question of whether we wanted to retain our membership of the Commonwealth, or if we showed the slightest reluctance to inform the humblest voter in this State most explicitly of what our mind is on that question, then the Deputy's challenge of dishonesty would be well founded.
I wish the Deputy would not keep talking about a challenge of dishonesty when I did not use the word.
The Deputy used the word by implication in this House, in the Press, and on the public platform.
What I said was that the Party showed no interest in my amendments, either on the Second Reading or on the Committee Stage, on this topic.
I do not mind admitting that controversy of any kind between myself and Deputy MacDermot is extremely distasteful to me, and I shall endeavour to moderate and modify my language most strictly, lest a very natural resentment against these covert charges of cowardice should move me to speak more trenchantly than I would wish to do. In that connection I think it right to say that I freely admit that the detached air with which Deputy MacDermot launches his poisoned arrows not infrequently wins him the credit of speaking with a detached moderation which should be a model for his colleagues. Detachment, however, is not indissoluble from poison.
I think the Ceann Comhairle indicated that the incident the Deputy is referring to had been already passed and it may not be re-opened in the fashion it is being re-opened now.
Surely I am entitled to answer a specific charge of the Deputy that he moved an amendment in the House and that he did not get support from us; that he was in doubt as to our position, that the country was in doubt about our position, and that we avoided the issue? I desire to go no further than that.
I am not interfering with the Deputy doing that, but I am suggesting that any differences there may be between Deputy MacDermot and Deputy Dillon should not be dragged into this.
I submit, on a point of order, that I carefully abstained just now, when talking on this Final Stage, from attributing motives or saying anything of an offensive kind. I confined myself to facts. The questions were genuinely meant as questions and not as poison.
I can assure the House and the Chair that I desire to raise no personal matter of any kind. I should be long sorry to think that the time of this Assembly should be wasted on a question of any personal difference between Deputy MacDermot and myself and, indeed, so far as I am aware, no new personal issue was raised. I merely speak as a member of the Party to clear a particular issue lest any doubt should remain in the minds of any of our colleagues. The Deputy complained that he received no assistance from the Opposition on an amendment put down in his name. He did not, and he will not. He says, therefore, that he is in doubt as to what our position is. He may be, as I have no reason to question his honesty. If he has any doubt about it, he is the only man in Ireland who is in doubt about our position on the Commonwealth. From every public platform, both when it was popular and when it was unpopular to say it, we have honestly told the people where we stand. We actually converted the Fianna Fáil Party.
And the King?
I am going into the whole business. We have converted the Fianna Fáil Party to our view, in the words of the Minister for Lands (Deputy Boland), that all Parties now believe that we ought to remain in the Commonwealth, because it is in the best interests of the Irish people to do so. That has been a long and tedious business. If one grew impatient in carrying that task to completion, we might never have carried it to completion. It is ludicrous to say that our attitude at any stage of our public life could leave any doubt in the mind of any voter or member of the House as to what our position is on the Commonwealth. I say that the amendment which the Deputy complained we refused to support was not designed to clarify the issue. I say it was put down for the purpose of getting cheap publicity for himself and of embarrassing the Opposition. He did not succeed in either. Our attitude was explained in this House——
Does not the Deputy see that he is opening a discussion on the merits of that amendment if he proceeds on that line? That will necessarily call for a reply from somebody. Possibly it may or it may not call for a reply, but if he speaks of that incident in that fashion it might reopen a discussion on the amendment.
I shall try to keep my remarks strictly within your ruling. Our position has been clear. I think Deputy Fitzgerald on a previous occasion made it clear to the House. The reasons have been set out and into them I do not want to go. I think I may say this without straying from the rules of order. Personally, I take the view that the last place you ought to put a definition of our constitutional position vis-a-vis the Commonwealth is in the Constitution, and I want to say why. I want to make it the easiest thing in the world to declare a republic in this country. I believe that the easier you make it to declare a republic, the more certain it is that our people will not do it.
If you put any obstacle, be it only a hair's breadth, in the path of our people to go the way they feel they want to go, that hair's line is the path down which an irresponsible agitator in this country can drive our people without any regard to the merits of the journey that they are being asked to take. Clear every path, and say to them: "If you want a republic you need not go and murder your next-door neighbour or assassinate anybody or disturb the public peace; go up on a platform, convert your neighbours, get a majority in Dáil Eireann and pass a resolution, and the following morning you have the republic." So long as you say that to the people, then you can establish a Government which can enforce the law; then you have taken away any chance of anybody rising hereafter and claiming that the only way that they can make the people's will effective is by violence.
That is exactly contrary to what Deputy Cosgrave said.
I am speaking clearly and plainly. I believe that, if a path is obstructed, that is the path down which irresponsible agitators, for their own purpose, can incite certain sections of our people to go. I, therefore, believe it is a good thing to remove any kind of constitutional difficulty in the way of our people, and let the issue of the republic and the Commonwealth be debated on its merits before the people. So far as I am concerned, and, I think, so far as all my colleagues are concerned, we support that Commonwealth of Nations on the grounds that it is the surest security for the sovereign independence of our people. I see that the Minister for Finance, speaking at Bodenstown yesterday, summarised his observations by saying that our purpose should be to forget all past discussion. That is not my purpose. There is nothing in my political antecedents in this generation or in the generations gone before that I want to forget. I want to remember it all.
That will not win Monaghan.
I do not want to forget any part in the past history of this country. I believe that from every incident in it a lesson is to be learned. There is no part of our background which I have any desire to forget or any reason to be ashamed of; but I do say that now and hereafter the issue of the Commonwealth and the republic must be put before the people on its merits, and its merits alone. The more it is put before them in that way, the more profoundly convinced I am that those who are really concerned for the sovereign independence of this country and for national reunion will come to our point of view, that these can be best conserved and maintained for all time by membership of the Commonwealth of Nations, and that if this country is ever to play a part in international affairs, it is through the Commonwealth of Nations that we can play it, and that with our influence in that Commonwealth we can lead what is the greatest association of independent States in the world along paths which will provide not only a buttress for the existing League of Nations, but should the League of Nations completely collapse, can provide an adequate substitute. Therefore I believe that we have a special duty in that Commonwealth, a duty in which we are at present wickedly failing, and that is to raise the voice of those who think with us on such matters as the Spanish question at the present time within the councils of that Commonwealth. Let me say this —and I think it right to say it—I attended, as representative of the Opposition in this House with more of our colleagues recently, the Empire Parliamentary Union in London. There I met Australian statesmen, New Zealand statesmen, Canadian statesmen and South African statesmen—statesmen from the different parts of the Commonwealth. I found that nearly half of them were Irish. And I found on more than one occasion, when attempts were made by guests who were invited to meet us to spread propaganda, Russian propaganda and Communist propaganda about Spain and elsewhere, that my presence there made it possible to challenge them, and to challenge them promptly and effectively. Unless that had been done there, no effective challenge would have been forthcoming.
I believe that if we in this country, instead of wobbling here, afraid to say to the people boldly what our country's destinies should be, were to take an active part in the Commonwealth of Nations, that Commonwealth of Nations would to-day be showing a very much more clear and unequivocal attitude in the conflict between Communism and Christianity proceeding in the Spanish Peninsula. I repudiate emphatically and categorically the suggestion of Deputy MacDermot that this Party has ever turned, has ever been afraid to stand for in public what it believes in private. Our hope in this forthcoming General Election to which the Deputy refers is that no single vote will be cast by any single person in the State who does not realise what our political and economic outlook is at the present time. I would much sooner that the vote of any person who has a doubt on that point should be given to the Fianna Fáil Party. So grave are the issues at stake that it would be infinitely better that anybody who does not understand and know every detail of our position should abstain from voting for it. Anything that this Party can do, anything its members and leaders can do to open our minds to the people of this country and to open the people's minds to the real issue involved, we have being doing and will continue to do until the General Election takes place.
The Deputy said that if he had a free choice in the matter, that is to say, if he had the moulding of the Constitution, he would advise the people to reject the Draft now before us, but he cannot give that advice, because the alternative is the old one, or the shattered remnants thereof. Then he proceeded to deal with the old one, and said that under Article 2A of the existing Constitution the Government could close down a newspaper by a declaration that the company which owned it was an unlawful association. He went on to add that although that declaration might be challenged in the courts, in the meantime infinite damage could be done by Executive action to any newspaper that the Executive Council wished to penalise.
I believe that Article 2A has been challenged as unconstitutional by the Deputy's colleagues.
How can you denounce Article 2A as unconstitutional and declare in the next breath that it is in the Constitution? Either Article 2A does close down a newspaper or it does not. It cannot do both. I believe what inspired the Deputy to make that statement was that he was more concerned with aspersing and despising everything concerned with his erstwhile colleagues. He seizes upon Article 2A as a useful stick with which to beat his erstwhile confreres.
Will the Deputy let me appeal to him for once? I hate to part company on these terms. I assure him that the allusions I made had no thought of the kind he suggests behind them at all. The point I was trying to get at was whether this Constitution, as submitted to us, should be supported or not. I had to compare it with existing institutions, and if, in attacking existing institutions, it seemed to the Deputy I was attacking his Party, I assure him that was not the purpose. I may further assure him that in referring to the question of the King and the Commonwealth, what I wanted to get at was this, if it is not practicable or desirable, in the opinion of Fine Gael as of Fianna Fáil, at the present time, until public opinion is more educated, to put these things in, I wanted to know it. In knowing it my support of the Draft Constitution is confirmed.
I would wish to show the Deputy every courtesy.
I thank you.
While his words will be recorded, it must appear that in the intervening period there has been a minor change of heart since that happy day when he rushed to wet his pen, when he rushed into print to point out the deplorable inconsistency and puerile fumbling of the Leader of the Opposition. I welcome the change of heart.
It is a change of occasion.
Nothing gives me greater pleasure than that the Deputy should come to realise that the acerbity of some of what he said can be legitimately resented by those who, possibly, have misunderstood it; but at least it is well that he should realise that his words are capable on occasion of bona fide misinterpretation.
I was answering an attack.
Now, the leader of the Opposition has said—and I need hardly say I entirely subscribe—that we cannot advise any voter to give his support to this Constitution. I believe that an examination by a competent body of jurists, who would clarify the meaning of most of the sections that are involved, would remove many of the objections. I believe that such clarification as may be necessary to establish definitely the sovereignty of the people's Parliament is necessary and, although Deputy MacDermot and the President say that there is no danger of dictatorship, no danger to the freedom of the Press, no danger to equality of opportunity for women, the best opinion we have is that there are dangers to all these things and they must be removed. Is it treason and is it trifling for us to disagree with a combination of the President and Deputy MacDermot? I do not think so. I think it is not only our Parliamentary right, but it is our Parliamentary duty to do so.
I make no apology for the fact that I took little interest in this Constitution. I do not take much interest in it now. I believe, and I am more convinced now than I was when this discussion began, that what this country wants is good government and not new Constitutions. If we get good government, if we get government of the people, by the people, for the people, then it will not matter very much what Constitution we have got. If, however, we get government by men who aspire to dictatorship; if we get government by men who prefer to serve their own personal pride rather than the interests of the plain people of the country; if we get government by a Party which has no principle at all except to follow wherever a conceited leader sees fit to lead them, then I do not care what Constitution you have, this country will be run on the rocks. Therefore, I have never been deeply interested.
What I am interested in is making my own neighbours in the country happier, better-off than they were before. What I am interested in is in making provision to maintain the sovereignty and independence of this State. My constant political anxiety is to recover its national unity and to see that this generation does nothing in its folly calculated to throw away what previous generations sacrificed so much to win for them. After all, it did take sacrifices to win independence for this country and I have no desire to forget any of these sacrifices or struggles. Quite unlike the Minister for Finance, I believe we can have goodwill and warm, mutual admiration for one another even if we have been divided in the past, without forgetting those who made sacrifices in the past, without forgetting the things that happened in the past.
There is one paragraph in this Constitution that I do welcome. There is one paragraph that I think it is a very good thing for Ireland that it was written by the hand of the man who wrote it. That is Article 5, in which President de Valera set down over his own hand this statement: "Ireland is a sovereign, independent, democratic State". He denied that at one time; he denounced as West Britons and traitors any man who stated that. He sent out his own henchmen to denounce those who defended that proposition as the friends of England. He aspersed, degraded and attacked the names of men living and dead who, by their labours, made Ireland a sovereign independent and democratic State. He has now come to realise, albeit 15 years too late, that Ireland is what he swore it was not.
I want to forget nothing in the civil war; I want to forget nothing in the war that went before it; I want to forget nothing about the generations that preceded Sinn Féin, but I want, if possible, to say with every colleague in this House that, however bitterly we felt either in the old days or the Sinn Féin days or the civil war days, that now with our independence and sovereignty we can afford to remember the facts and forget the hatreds; we can afford to recognise in one another that whichever side we were on we believed we were serving Ireland; we can afford to realise that when we were actually engaged in the struggle it was more than could be expected of human nature that each side should give the other full credit for the best intention. Looking back, to do so fully may be for some of us a struggle, but it is a struggle worth making. Let us forget nothing except the bitterness; let us remember every incident in order that we may learn from it a lesson which will help us in the future to make of this island, which is now sovereign, independent and democratic, a united nation in which the Irish people will be able to live more happily, more prosperous and with a certainty of enduring freedom now and forever more.
I heard with very deep regret when coming into the House that Deputy Cosgrave had said that he could not see his way to recommend this Constitution to the people. I was amazed, therefore, to hear the second part of Deputy Dillon's speech when he got down to declare his attitude on this Constitution. Deputy Dillon said that it was his idea, as to what should be done, that every constitutional difficulty in the way to a republic should be removed: that he wanted to take away any chance of anybody rising in the country and saying that the only way to get a republic was by means of violence. When I heard Deputy Dillon say that that was his idea, I could not reconcile it with what Deputy Cosgrave had said that he was not going to recommend this Constitution to the people, and I thought there was another split in Fine Gael. Now none of us want bitterness. I think that some of the sentiments that were expressed by Deputy Dillon in the latter part of his speech could be underlined by everyone. We want, however, certain rules for the game, the political game, in this country. There would be no use, for instance, in sending out two football teams to play in the same field if they had no rules. If one set played according to Rugby rules, and another according to Gaelic rules, there would very soon be bitterness. We want to have in this country a set of rules which will be fundamental for all political Parties and which all political Parties will agree to abide by. If we take Deputy Dillon's pious hope that bitterness will be abolished, that the road to the Republic will be clear, and that no person will be tempted to use violence in the attainment of that ideal, then I think the Deputy will have to change his attitude on this Constitution. What is this Constitution doing? Not alone is it setting up fundamental rules for the future, but it is abolishing, by the vote of the people, the present Constitution under which we are operating. The first Article in that Constitution as it stands to-day is: "The Irish Free State... is a co-equal member of the community of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations".
And under the present Constitution that Article could be deleted by a resolution of this House.
I am not denying that. It could be deleted by a majority vote.
And that is the fundamental difference between us.
Is the Deputy prepared to delete that Article?
I want it to be there. I want to be a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Is the Deputy prepared to delete it for the sake of clearing away every constitutional difficulty to the declaration of the Republic?
It presents no constitutional difficulty. You can do it by an Act of Parliament.
Within 16 years— one more year.
We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
It is in the Constitution at the moment.
And can be removed from it by an Act of this House.
I take it then that the Deputy is against that Article in the Constitution.
Absurd. I stand for it four-square.
If the Deputy stands foursquare for having it in the Constitution and at the same time says, as every member present in the House heard him say, that he wanted to clear the way——
Would the Minister allow me to explain? He is falling into a very silly error. The existing Constitution can be amended by an Act of Parliament. Is not that so?
By a constitutional amendment.
By Act of Parliament.
Let us be constitutional in our expressions.
The new Constitution is going to become an inflexible instrument in a very limited period of time. The intention is that it is not to be made flexible as the old Constitution was. In the case of the old Constitution we could alter any provision in it by an Act of Parliament. All that anybody had to do was to walk in here, repeal a provision and substitute for it the words: "This is a republic," and it was a republic. The new Constitution, as I have said, is an inflexible instrument and that cannot be done. Therefore, it would be better in my judgment to leave that out and let people come in here to declare a republic if they can persuade the general body of the people that they ought to do so.
I agree with what Deputy Dillon said, but I do not agree with what he is prepared to do in the matter. I agree absolutely with him when he says that we should do everything within our power to clear away the thought in anybody's mind that you must use violence in order to get a republic. That has been my principal endeavour during life—in fact, since I came to the use of reason, and particularly since a certain period that Deputy Dillon does not want us to forget, that is, the civil war. The Fianna Fáil Pary started up after the civil war. It set out to reunite our people, to clear away any constitutional barriers that prevented our people declaring a republic in a peaceful fashion, and, thanks be to God, we have lived to see it written in this document which has passed through certain stages in Parliament. If this Constitution is passed by this Dáil, and enacted by the people, then I say every constitutional barrier to a peaceful declaration of the republic will have been removed.
There are none now.
And there would not be one even if the Government had put the Crown and the Commonwealth right into the new Constitution because the Referendum would be available.
I never thought that my speech would have the effect of reuniting the two Deputies.
What the Minister says could be done under the present Constitution by passing an Act of Parliament. The Government did not do that during the last five years and they have no intention of doing it.
Under the present Constitution there is an Article which states that this State is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Under the new Constitution there will be no such statement.
There will be nothing at all.
There will be nothing, and therefore what I want to point out is that Deputy Dillon's ideal will have been reached. There will be no barrier.
And there was no barrier under the old Constitution.
There will be no barrier to the peaceful declaration of a republic if the people want to do it.
And under the old Constitution there was not.
Yes, there was. I think that Deputy Dillon never read the old Constitution. It would seem like that, and after what he has said here this evening I doubt if he has read the new one with any sort of care. Again, I want to say that I am amazed that a Deputy who could make the statement which I have quoted could finally come to agree with Deputy Cosgrave not to recommend this Constitution to the people, because this new Constitution does exactly what Deputy Dillon put in the forefront of his programme when speaking here.
And even if the Crown was in it, there would still be no need for force.
The people who take that point of view do not fully realise all the passions that are aroused in this country by the oath and the other tags that keep the symbol of British sovereignty here. We have abolished those, and abolished them completely. In my opinion, we have now reached the stage when we can say truthfully that there is no barrier, legal or moral, to the complete declaration of a republic when the people put in a Government that will do it.
And there never was.
Deputy Dillon, of course, as I say, seems never to have read the old Constitution.
Faith, I did.
The Deputy then knows of the Articles that were inserted in this House in 1922 and which were stated to be unalterable, one of them being the Article maintaining membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the Oath of Allegiance to a foreign King, the King's veto, the right of appeal to the Privy Council, and so on and soforth.
Did the Minister ever hear of the Statute of Westminster and the Imperial Conferences that went before it?
Yes, I did.
Evidently, not much.
The Deputy should not run away with the idea that we are relying on anything that is written in any British Statute in order to empower the Irish people to enact this Constitution. This Constitution is being enacted by a sovereign people —the Irish people—and the Deputy's statement that Ireland always has been a sovereign, independent, democratic State is a clear definition of the Irish people's right, but not of their legal status in the eyes of British law up to the moment.
The Deputy is so emphatic in everything he says that, really, there is no use in talking to him.
You had to elect the King yourself. They could not put a King on the throne without the specific process of election which you proposed.
The fact of the matter is that Ireland, under the present Free State Constitution, as we took it over, was not a sovereign, democratic State.
Well, I shall leave that to the people to judge, as we are not going to get agreement about it, evidently. Deputy Dillon said that he went over to the Empire Parliamentary Union; that he was glad to say that he was able to challenge there Communist propaganda, and that, if he had not been there, there might have been nobody to challenge it. Now, I have heard of various sorts of reasons put forward as to why we should remain in the British Commonwealth, but I never before heard it suggested that the reason we should stay in the British Commonwealth is so that Deputy Dillon might protect the whole British Empire from Communism. I think the British Empire can get on very well without Deputy Dillon, and that he is not such an unbreakable bulwark against Communism in the British Empire that he will be missed if we get out of it. I am much more concerned that we should stop any type of social or economic or political violence here than that Communism, whether it is a bogey or otherwise, should be prevented, by Deputy Dillon in London, from operating in Australia, New Zealand, or some other place at the ends of the earth; and I think we can do our best for ourselves and for the world by putting through this Constitution and by concentrating, for the future, on building up a social State here that will be founded upon justice.
Deputy Dillon made an allegation that in this Constitution we are, in some way or another, abolishing women's rights and abolishing their right to earn a livelihood. What we are really doing in this Constitution is not derogating in any way from the rights that women or other citizens have, but in the social directions, and in the clauses relating to the family, we are putting it on the State to take greater care of women and to have a greater regard for their duties than women have had hitherto. I should like Deputy Dillon, or any other Deputy from the other side of the House who may follow him in speaking on this, to tell me what paragraph or what clause in the Constitution derogates from women's rights or gives women less rights than they had under the clauses in the old Constitution.
Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted, and 20 Deputies being present,
I have a note here now of what Deputy Dillon said. He said, in effect, that there were references to women in the Constitution which could be regarded as discriminating against women in earning their bread. As far as I can see, from the clauses relating to women in the Constitution, instead of discriminating against them in the earning of their bread, they will help them to get a decent livelihood for themselves and their families. In Article 41, sub-section (2) (1), dealing with the family, it is stated that: "In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved." The next clause says: "The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home." This Constitution, in that way, puts it as a duty upon the State—upon any Government or any Parliament acting under this Constitution in the future—to ensure that women will be supported and that mothers will not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labours to the neglect of the home.
I am amazed by the Fine Gael speakers who can get up here in this House and claim to be the champions of women's rights, complaining that we are doing something in this Constitution which will prevent women from earning their daily bread, when I remember that for ten years the Cumann na nGaedheal Party were here claiming that the State was prosperous, and yet left thousands and tens of thousands of widows and their children throughout the country in a destitute condition.
I think the people are not such fools as some of the Fine Gael Deputies think them to be, and that they will judge Fine Gael pleadings for the rights of women in the light of what Fine Gael did when it was in their power to do something for that section of women who were in the greatest need of support. Deputy Dillon may fool a few cranks throughout the country who want to be fooled by his assertion that the Constitution will justify Parliament in discriminating against women in earning their bread but he will not be believed by the vast majority of the women of this country who think that it is the duty of the State to see that they should be supported and that they will not be forced by economic necessity to neglect their duties within the home. In the Article dealing with directive principles of social policy you find a clause which goes somewhat further than that dealing with the family and which sets out that Parliament shall endeavour to safeguard with especial care the economic interests of the weaker sections of the community, and, where necessary, contribute to the support of the infirm, the widow, the orphan and the aged. So that if you had re-elected here at some future time a Government such as Fine Gael who, when they wanted money, would cut the pensions of the aged poor, or who might endeavour to abolish widows' and orphans' pensions, this clause would be an added support to those sections of the Dáil who wanted to see that these measures which were initiated by Fianna Fáil should continue in operation.
Another sub-section of Article 45 states that the State shall endeavour to ensure that the strength and health of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children, shall not be abused and that citizens shall not be forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their sex, age or strength. I did not hear Deputy Cosgrave, unfortunately, on the reasons he gave, if he gave any, as to why he was not recommending the Constitution to the people. Is it that he wants Article 45 deleted so that if returned to power, at some time or another, he can with a clear conscience cut the old age pensions or cut the widows' and orphans' pensions? That is not without the bounds of possibility, because it was done before. I think if the people of this country want to see it developed and want to see the economic life of the people and their social life such that we can be proud of them, they will support this Constitution whether or not it is recommended to them by Deputy Cosgrave. Deputy Cosgrave will not recommend this Constitution to the people. I wonder is it because he wants Article 1 abolished? Does he want to be free in the future, if this country ever had the misfortune to have him as the leader of the Government again, to sell another six counties and to give away another £5,000,000 a year for nothing? I think that the people are entitled, in their own interests, to ensure that there should be certain fundamental rights here for the guidance of Parliament and the Government which cannot be broken by a Government that happens to get elected and runs away from the pledges it gave to the people.
There was a Constitution here once before, and unfortunately it had no such safeguards, and this new Constitution will have. The Executive of the day simply tore it up and abolished not only the Constitution but the right of Parliament to meet. This Constitution gives the people a guarantee that, when it is enacted by the people, this will be a democratic State and that if a Party with Fascist leanings happens to get a majority at any time, they will not be able to put their dictatorial ideas into operation in a constitutional fashion. They would have to disregard absolutely the Constitution enacted by the people if they attempted to do any such thing. Deputy Dillon said that he would not trust this Constitution if it should happen that a leader who aspired to a dictatorship should be elected by the people. I took it from him that he was alluding to some fear he had that President de Valera might at some time or another institute a dictatorship here. If Fianna Fáil wanted to establish a dictatorship, what better opportunity could they have than now, or the last six months? For the last year or so, we have had a single Chamber Government in which Fianna Fáil had a majority. If we did wish to establish a dictatorship, surely that was the time to do it. I do not think that the people will be fooled by the claptrap that this Constitution enables President de Valera to establish a dictatorship. The people are not such utter fools as Fine Gael would make them out to be, and I advise them not to overstate the case in that way because if they do the people will show them in no uncertain manner that they are not fools.
This Constitution sets up certain organs of State which are designed to ensure that the people's will shall be operative, and that the Constitution which they enact will not be changed unless it is the people's will that it should be changed. You have the Dáil consisting of members elected by the people. You have the Seanad also elected. You have then a President elected directly by the people, who swears to uphold the Constitution and who is given powers to refuse his signature to a Bill designed to amend the Constitution, or even to a Bill upon which, in his opinion, the people should be consulted before it is passed into law. On the other hand, you have the safeguard that the President, beyond those two matters, cannot act unless upon the advice of the Government. You have a balance there. The President can act in an independent manner on constitutional matters; he can refuse to allow them to become law unless the people are consulted; but on any other matters except those he can act only upon the advice of the Government. I only wish that there had been such a functionary and such a Constitution 16 or 17 years ago. If there had been, many disastrous things which have happened since then would not have occurred. I hope the people will realise the fundamental importance of this Constitution to them, even though it is not recommended by Deputy Cosgrave. It embodies the ideals for which many gallant Irishmen have died in the past. It embodies also the ideals for which this nation will strive in the future. I hope that, within a measurable distance of time, certain clauses in this Constitution that are at present simply held out as an ideal towards which the Oireachtas should strive will become in fact operative, and thereafter enforceable by law.
I hope that, in spite of the attitude of the Fine Gael Party, the vast majority of their supporters who want to see this country develop in a peaceful way will support the Constitution. We have not made this Constitution a Party issue. It has been necessary to use our Party majority to get into the Constitution or to keep from being deleted from it clauses which we thought were vital, but we have never said to the people—nor do we intend to say now, nor shall we say at the general election that is to come —that they must vote for this Constitution if they are going to vote for Fianna Fáil, or that, if they support the Constitution, it means in effect that they are voting for Fianna Fáil. I want to make it perfectly clear— I have made it perfectly clear from every platform from which I have spoken so far, and I shall continue to do so—that the people are perfectly free to vote for this Constitution and against Fianna Fáil as a political Party. I hope that the very big number of Fine Gael supporters who recognise the value of this Constitution as a means by which we can get security in our political, economic and social life, will vote for it.
The people who will have an opportunity of voting for this Constitution will have an opportunity for which many men who died in the past would have died a thousand times. It is the first time that the Irish people— those of them who can act here in these 26 counties—have had an opportunity of declaring that this whole nation of Ireland is a sovereign, independent and democratic State. Those who believe that that is so, who have a hatred of Partition and a detestation of the methods by which it was brought about here by a foreign Power, will, I am sure, avail of the opportunity of declaring that this country—the whole 32 counties of it— is entitled to complete and absolute independence; that it has an inalienable, indefeasible and sovereign right to choose its own form of government, and to determine its relations with other nations. It is the first time that the Irish people, the vast majority of them, have had an opportunity of clearly expressing their minds on that matter. When Partition was put through originally, it was put through in the British Parliament, and there was not a single Member of Parliament, a single representative of the Irish people North or South, who voted for it. I am sure that those who vote for that clause of the Constitution, for making it the fundamental law of this country, expressing the fundamental ideas of the Irish people, will be expressing not alone the ideas of the vast majority of the people in the South but of the vast majority of the people in the North, if the truth were known.
That is a little optimistic.
If you had a really free vote of the people in the North, all sections in it, in my opinion you would get a majority for a united Ireland.
I hope the Minister is right.
In talking like that I am talking about people among whom I was born and reared. I know all sections of them. I hope that the day is not very far away when we will in fact be extending over the whole 32 counties the sovereign and democratic rights which this Constitution gives to this part of the country.
At the conclusion of his speech the Minister for Defence said that everybody who hoped for peaceful development in this country would support the Constitution. I am amongst those who look forward to and trust in the peaceful development of the State, but I think it right to say why I cannot support this Constitution. I was not able to be present during the debate on the Second Reading, but I studied the report carefully, and I was present during the greater part of the Committee Stage and further consideration of the Draft. There are several reasons which affect my judgment on it. In the first place I think the form of the document is not what the form of a Constitution should be. A Constitution is essentially a legal document and should be declaratory of the structure of the State, of what is in another sense the Constitution of a State, and, above everything else, it should be declaratory of the rights of the individual citizen. This Draft document that we are considering contains phrases directive rather than declaratory. It consists largely of a moral homily in which various directions are given as to the lines on which the State should work in future. Where general principles appear, one finds that almost every one of them is qualified by following phrases, so that when attempting to interpret them one does not know what meaning is conveyed. That occurs over and over again. Instead of a clear statement as to the structure of the State and the right of individual citizens, we have a vague, indeterminate series of statements and sentences which to a great extent are opposed to each other and are almost contradictory. I do not like the form of the document.
In the framing of the Constitution we have to be more careful than our predecessors of 15 years ago. The present Draft Constitution if adopted cannot be altered except by a process which is cumbersome, expensive, and difficult to apply. It will be almost impossible to alter it. One cannot see an alteration being put forward by a Government if it amounts to proceeding to have a Referendum, unless it is a matter of great importance and there is a probability of an overwhelming majority in favour of it. It is true that within three years the Constitution can be changed by ordinary legislation, but that three years cannot be prolonged. At the same time, three years is not long enough to give Parliament to experience an experiment of this kind.
There are many points in which it seems to me the directions contained in the printed words are dangerous. I will mention one, which was the subject of a very long discussion on the Committee Stage, the freedom of opinion which is supposed to be guaranteed in the Constitution. The State guarantees liberty for the exercise of fundamental rights, the right of the citizens to express freely their opinions. As far as I can see, the qualifications that follow take away a great deal of the guarantee that is ostensibly given in the section, because the next sentence, to which little attention was given in previous discussions, seems to me to be ominous—"the education of public opinion being, however, a matter of such grave import to the common good, the State shall endeavour to ensure," etc. It seems to me that for the State to take over the education of public opinion is most dangerous. There is no danger in freedom of opinion or in the clash of honest opinion, but there is in interference by the State in the manner in which the education of the public is to be enforced by law. The remaining portion of the section seems very dangerous in spite of the almost negligible amendment that was introduced during the discussion. The phrase "including criticism of Government policy" seems to me to be anything but a guarantee of freedom of public opinion. Possibly it takes from it by suggesting a limitation in that respect of criticism of Government policy. It is right that the theory of Government should be the subject of discussion and criticism to let the opinions of the people emerge as a result of such discussion and opinions. It is only in that way that the minds of the people can be educated and not by propaganda by the State as is suggested by the direction in the Article.
In his speech on the Committee Stage the President made it clear that it was his intention that the Article should be used to prevent discussions of the fundamentals of our theory of Government. He asked if they were to permit anarchical principles to be propagated here. I am not in sympathy with anarchical principles, but I think they should be met by honest argument and not by compulsion. The President asked: "Are we going to have anarchical principles, for example, propagated here? I say no." I interjected the query: "Why not?" The President replied: "I say no." He added: "I say that you should not give to the propagation of what is wrong and unnatural the same liberty as would be accorded to the propagation of what is right."
It is for the people to decide what is right or wrong and not for the Government. The Government should not lay down laws that such and such opinions could be propagated and others not, as part of their propaganda. I must confess to some surprise that Deputy MacDermot seemed to be satisfied with the phrase "including criticism of Government policy". Only a few months ago I remember that Deputy MacDermot made a very dignified and manly protest against the attempt to suppress opinion by mob rule in the City of Dublin. He is quite content now that similar suppression should take place if organised by the State.
I fail to see that, as Deputy MacDermot and the President collaborated on the new words dealing with "criticism of Government policy" but they do not go to the point. I think the Deputy rightly raised the issue some months ago with regard to the mob suppression of opinion.
I might interrupt the Deputy to say that I would like to have the whole of that sentence out, but I do not believe that danger arises until legislation is introduced.
The Deputy earlier to-day was chaffed with the suggestion that he was learning something from the President. I suggest to him now that he had enunciated a principle and taken away the value of the principle by the qualifications he is willing to accept. I am not in sympathy with anarchistic or Communistic opinions or other opinions that are likely to be subversive to the theory of government that we accept; but I suggest that the way to meet these opinions is by honest criticism and honest expression of opinion, rather than by force. The result of force is not to kill these opinions, but to drive them underground, where they are very much more dangerous than if they were in the open arena of public opinion. Again, I cannot agree with the Minister for Defence in his statement that the position of women in the State is improved by this Draft Constitution. It seems to me to suffer in various ways. In the first place, women formerly had a position of equality with men in their capacity as citizens laid down in the Constitution. Citizenship is no longer in the Constitution. There was a reference to citizenship in the old Constitution, but there is none in this. Citizenship is to be defined by law. The references to the equality of men and women in the present Constitution are purely political, with perhaps one exception. Some of us pressed that there should be recognition of the economic equality of women, and the President met us to some extent. But I cannot think that he has really satisfied the demand that was made that economic equality should be fully recognised in the words he has adopted in Article 45, 2, 1º.
The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing
(i) That the citizens (all of whom, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood), may through their occupations find the means of making reasonable provision for their domestic needs.
I think the word "domestic" qualifies that phrase so much that it is of little value, and I am disappointed that nothing better came from the President's deliberations on the point. Neither men nor women should be satisfied with making reasonable provision for their domestic needs. The State should endeavour to see that they can make provision for all human needs. The word "domestic" limits the utility of that so much that I see little value in it. At the same time, I admit quite frankly that the President has made some movement towards giving a better status to women in the Constitution than appeared in the Draft as it reached us first.
I have discussed some things in the Constitution and pointed out in what way I think they fail to meet the demands of anyone of democratic ideas. There are some other points of national policy to which I wish to refer very briefly. The Constitution, as Deputy MacDermot pointed out earlier to-day, and pointed out in the amendment he proposed on the Second Reading, is definitely a deterrent to the opinion of Northern Ireland in regard to a co-operative attitude with this State. The silence as regards the position of the nation in regard to the British Commonwealth of Nations is, of course, clearly a deterrent to any sympathy from Northern Ireland in their present outlook. The unnecessary reference, as it seems to me, to religion in the country, while there is nothing offensive in the words as I stated the other day, and nothing inaccurate in the statement in the Draft, is certainly a deterrent to the opinion of those in Northern Ireland. It seems to me that by bringing in these words, which state an obvious fact, one is in danger of making that Article rather platitudinous. The President stated that it was so obvious it should be in the Constitution. If he puts in everything that is obvious, he ought to state that grass grows and water runs, and other facts of nature which are just as obvious and no more obvious than the facts stated in that Article.
There is at least one good point in the Constitution on which I think both sides of the House are agreed, though possibly not in the details of it; that is in the restoration of a Second Chamber to the Legislature of the State. While, as I say, there may be difference of opinion on the details, I think an honest attempt has been made by the Government to form a Second Chamber which would be useful in the Legislature.
The Minister for Defence made a curious statement about this Constitution. He said that it is being enacted by a sovereign people—the Irish people. But is it? If it is enacted, it will be enacted by the citizens of the Twenty-six Counties. Is that being enacted by a sovereign people, the Irish people? At the most, it will be enacted, if it is enacted, by a majority of something between two-thirds and three-fourths of the Irish people. That majority may very well be a minority if the Irish people as a whole had an opportunity of giving an opinion. Towards the end of his speech the Minister modified his statement to a certain extent. At first he stated as a fact that this Constitution was being enacted by a sovereign people—the Irish people. Towards the end he expressed the hope that the Irish people, if they had an opportunity, would have enacted it. The Irish people will have now an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it, and whatever may be our hopes— and in many of the principles laid down in the Constitution I would be very glad to think that a majority of the Irish people would agree—it is useless to make the claim at present that it is a great national achievement that this Constitution is being enacted by a sovereign people, the Irish people, seeing that it is being enacted by a section of the people only, and one has no knowledge whether the section that may provide a majority for it represents a majority of the entire Irish people or not.
I recognise that a great deal of trouble has been taken in the preparation of this document. There has been an attempt to meet many difficulties; but, from thinking over the points I have now mentioned, I find myself of the opinion that in hardly any respect, if any, is it an advance on the existing Constitution, and in many respects it is a recession from the position in the existing Constitution.
One of the reasons why Deputy Rowlette feels that he cannot be satisfied with the Draft Constitution is because it represents merely the opinion, if it will eventually represent the opinion, of the people of the Twenty-Six Counties. Surely the same argument must have held during the time since Saorstát Eireann was established.
The same claim was not made. This suggestion of enactment is claimed as an advance on that very ground, and I am pointing out that it is no advance in that respect.
The Constitution is not framed merely as regards the present position, but every endeavour was made by the framers of it to see that it would suit and be appropriate to any development that might take place towards a united Ireland. Deputy Rowlette, had he been in our position and had the responsibility for drafting this Constitution, might have produced something entirely different. It is quite true that the discussions on any measure of this kind might be involved in all kinds of theoretical questions. Each individual in this House would, no doubt, try to settle the principles which he thought should be enshrined in the Constitution in a manner special to himself. We, as a Government responsible to the people of the greater part of Ireland at the present time, have been responsible for putting this Constitution before the country. We are quite well aware of the fact that under existing circumstances it cannot be made applicable to the 32 counties of Ireland. Its jurisdiction cannot run over the whole 32 counties. In the very same way as we have argued in connection with other issues, I think that most people will agree that if the alternative is that we should not deal with these matters at all, but merely leave them over, defer them to an indefinite period when there is some definite hope of real advance, of some palpable state of affairs which would lead us to believe that we are appreciably nearer to a united Ireland, we will have to wait a very long time. We have been listening for a number of years to this thing—that in everything from the Irish language generally to the provisions about divorce, we are holding up the ultimate reunion of this country. Are we then to assume, or can it be claimed to be the logical outcome of these arguments, that we are simply to refuse to put our own ideas into law and refuse to put before the Irish people the instrument which we, as responsible for the government of the country, regard as being suitable to the country's requirements? We have given a great deal of attention to the matter.
Deputy Rowlette has criticised the Constitution with respect to definite points. If the Constitution were so perfect an instrument that it pleased all the philosophers and lawyers and theorists, there would still be a terrible danger that it might not work when it was sought to put it into practice. One of the outstanding characteristics of this Constitution is the fact that during the whole of these debates we have not heard the view controverted that its provisions will work or that there is machinery for adjusting the institutions and methods of carrying on the affairs of the country and the new requirements. Generally speaking, I think it can be claimed that this new Constitution will work, and work satisfactorily. We are in the position now after a decade and a half of self-government that a great many troublesome issues have been cleared out of the way. For instance, the ultimate question as to whether we should in this State and in this country declare an independent Irish Republic can be decided entirely apart from this question of the Constitution. Deputy Dillon has said that that was always the position. But we have held the view, rightly or not, and I think Deputy Dillon must appreciate the fact, that a very considerable body of the Irish public did not agree with the view, that since the time when the Treaty was signed the Irish Free State was an independent sovereign State. Even viewing it from another point of view, it must be a great advantage to the country and a great benefit in the future that we can unite upon that question now and that we can do so without any qualifications whatever. We agree now that this State is sovereign and independent, and we also would be agreed that it is a democratic State.
The arguments that have been adduced by Deputy Cosgrave that he did not feel he could recommend the Draft Constitution to the Irish people are rather surprising. I do not know whether the Deputy and his Party claim that no Constitution was necessary and that we should continue the present state of affairs, which, as I said when I spoke on the Second Reading, has been contemned for a very long time by that Party. The present is a Single Chamber Government carrying on with a Parliamentary majority and is practically unrestricted. At any rate, this Constitution should appeal to a leader of Deputy Cosgrave's experience. For under this Constitution there are certain definite checks laid down. I think it will not be denied that the checks are important. There are the Second Chamber provisions which are being set up and they are a definite advantage in that they impose a kind of check which those who are worried about the present condition of the world would like to see in operation.
It would be undoubtedly very much easier for this Government in the present position not to introduce any Constitution. But we felt in the interests of the country that we should make a serious effort to have a Second Chamber. We are setting up a Second Chamber with such powers and containing such personnel as would make it eminently desirable to give it a place in the Legislature. We have done that. That was the result of the report of a Commission which was set up to deal with that matter. But when it was claimed that we had not consulted experts on this matter of the Draft Constitution, the charge is not correct because we have consulted experts in the Government Departments, experts who were qualified to advise us on this question. We have also consulted our own experience and the experience of our predecessors. All the information was there and was available very fully if not entirely.
We know exactly how the last Constitution developed. We know the defects in it and we know how the machinery of Government has worked during the period of self-Government that we have had in this country. So that we have this advantage and it is not true to say that we have not sought expert information. Whether we set up a special commission as in the case of the Seanad or got the best advice available we, at all events, have got the best advice that we could get. I entirely disagree with the view that by setting up a scratch body of professors and lawyers you are going to get better results than you would have got from a body of men who are themselves experienced in this work and who can seek advice from officers whom they can consult. The strange thing about the arguments that have been put up by Deputy Cosgrave in defence of his decision that he was not going to recommend the Constitution to the Irish people, is that Deputy Cosgrave does not stand very long over these arguments. He does not stand very long on any single argument. It may be that he realises that each one of these arguments can be answered and definitely combated. At any rate, it is a striking fact that he does not very long remain on any one argument but passes from one to another as to why the Constitution is not a good instrument for the Irish people. The great and fundamental argument is that we should not have any Constitution at all, that we would have been far better-off in dealing with economic questions. I venture to say that a very brief time has been occupied here on questions other than economic questions. Except for the political issues upon which the present Government got a definite mandate from the people, and most of which they have implemented, practically the whole of our time in this House for the past five years has been given up to economic problems of one kind or another. If our time was not given up to the discussion of economic measures brought forward by the Government, it was occupied in listening to long and woeful speeches from the Opposition on resolutions which purported to be of an economic character.
It is stated, of course, in furtherance of these arguments, that we would be better occupied in discussing economic and social problems, as if we had been neglecting them; that it would have been far better for the people if we had tried to carry out these high-sounding principles. Very eminent Governments and very eminent authorities that are not Governments have laid down certain principles. Are we to assume, because Deputy Cosgrave says that these social principles are impossible or are not capable of immediate accomplishment, cannot be carried into effect at once to the fullest extent, that for that reason they are to be denounced as merely high-sounding principles, as so much froth and nothing more? We claim that since we came into office we have done our share in trying to carry these principles into operation.
We have never said that we or any succeeding Government, sensitive to the conditions of the people and really anxious to bring about a state of affairs here that will satisfy them, could achieve our ideals all at once. But I will say that we have endeavoured to carry out to the full the ideals we had in mind when we became a Government. Are we to assume that because we cannot carry out these principles which are of such importance in every other country and in this country, that we should not state them? Are we to assume that we cannot refer to them merely because to-morrow we may not be able to tell the Irish people that we are in a position to carry out our ideals to the letter?
It seems to be entirely neglected by those gentlemen who have been making a negative case against the Constitution that, while they have been harping on two or three points which, according to them, are very large and important, they have taken very good care not to call the attention of the Irish people to, or say a single word in favour of, principles which, if they cannot recommend them, they at least believe to be true, because they are principles which are fundamental to 90 per cent. of the Irish people. These principles are there and if, in the near future, we are not going to succeed in achieving them, that is no reason why we should belittle them or ridicule efforts being made to carry them out, particularly when it is the desire of earnest and thoughtful men in our country to see some definite principles of social justice put down to which all Parties in the State could subscribe without in any way giving up their own independence or their right to independent action.
I think that the vast majority of people who have discussed this question and considered it for years would say that it is of tremendous value that you have a Constitution which lays down principles that 90 per cent. of our people can agree upon. How we are going to bring them into effect, the occasion and so on, are questions that we may have different opinions about. I think, however, that we are all agreed with regard to the fundamental principles of a sovereign and independent State.
If I were criticising a Government on the ground that it was putting principles into the Constitution that it was not able to carry out to the letter, my attitude would at least be qualified by a consideration as to whether I could do any better. If I were able to say: "I intend to do better; I am going to do better, and I'm not going to put down certain principles for the sake of having a Constitution setting out those principles, but because I believe in them and that I can do better than the Party in office," I would fully subscribe to them and recommend them.
It has been stated that the Constitution has not evoked very much interest. I submit that one of the reasons it has not evoked very much interest is because of the propaganda which has been carried on to the effect that the Constitution is of no importance to the country, that the fundamental law is of no importance to the citizen. In a country where we talk so much about having attained self-government, independence, sovereignty and so on, one would imagine that a Party that had been in office for ten years and which had been during that time crying out for a higher standard of citizenship and more interest in civic affairs, would at least have taken advantage of the opportunity to ask the people to take a lively interest in the Constitution, and, while criticising it, if it deserved to be criticised in regard to certain points, would call attention to the fundamental principles which, I think, they themselves subscribed to. Unfortunately, the attitude has been simply to try to prevent the Irish people from realising the real advantages of the Constitution and the principles it embodies by refusing to discuss some of its most important provisions, by refusing to call the attention of the Irish people to those aims and principles which are of the greatest possible importance and which, in my view, all Parties in the State ought to subscribe to if they really feel there is danger either to democratic Government or to the common weal, or to the spiritual ideals that we hold, from revolutionary or subversive movements in the future.
We are told that this has been treated as a Party measure. I cannot see that the fact that our Party supported amendments of the President or voted with him when he was unable to accept amendments put up by the opposite side is any proof that this has been regarded by us as a Party measure. We believed that it should not be a Party measure and there should be the fullest possible freedom of discussion. The President handled the matter from the very beginning, and even those who may find fault with it have had to admit that he has been, all through, very anxious to hear criticisms and effect improvements where he felt a good case had been made. No real case was made except in regard to two or three points, and it is singularly unfortunate for the country that we are going to have a tussle on the Constitution and that the Opposition, where they have not succeeded in getting accepted amendments that represented their point of view, are going to take up the attitude that the rest of the Constitution is of no value and that they cannot recommend it.
Now we hear a great deal about the question of the Press. I have only to say, with regard to that, that the principles that have been laid down in the Constitution, while there may be some departure from what we may call strictly liberalistic principles, are, it seems to us, more definitely real and have cognisance in a more definite way of the realities of the situation and of the difficulties which modern Governments and, indeed, modern communities have to contend with. When Deputies talk of the freedom of the Press, I would remind them that we passed legislation in this House—and it was not the present Government which passed it into law—setting up special machinery for the censorship of publications. I am not going to dwell on that question further than to say that if the House saw fit, and the country as a whole saw fit, to set up a censorship with regard to books and periodicals, it seems to me rather strange that it should be contended by those who were responsible for introducing that legislation that when we put down definitely in black and white that where the public weal, the public interest and the public welfare demand it, that the State shall equally interfere, if necessary, with regard to the radio, the cinema and the Press, that we are doing something unheard of. In any case, we have to bear in mind, as was pointed out to-day, that under Article 2A of the present Constitution, in spite of all the talk about constitutional rights and the wonderful principles with regard to the liberty of the citizen and the liberty of the Press that were enshrined in the old Constitution, all these liberties simply passed out when Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Act was put through.
If it is stated that it is, perhaps, unwise to put the Constitution before the people on the day of a general election, the chief reason for that is simply to avoid expense. I can see no reason whatever in the settled, peaceful conditions that we have here at present, and have had for some years past, with a change of Government—one Government holding office for a period of ten years and another succeeding it and holding office for a period of five years—why the Irish people should not be capable, each individual voter of them, of determining the difference between the issue of the Constitution on election day and the issue of the return of a Government. It is, if anything, a disadvantage to the Party in office, who are responsible for putting forward the Constitution, that they cannot make a case for the Constitution in the way they would desire and cannot put that case forward with the earnestness that is required, and meet the points that have been made against the Constitution as they should be met, lest it might be said that they were taking political advantage to themselves, or that they were making a political issue of the question of the Constitution. We do not want the position to occur, and we are certainly going to try to prevent the position occurring, that the Constitution is going to fall between two stools. When the general election comes on we intend to make the best case we can for the Constitution, and we intend to recommend it to the Irish people. But it is certainly unfortunate, and everybody who has the interests of the country at heart must feel it to be a misfortune, that all Parties in the State have not been able to recommend it, and in that way that it has not been possible to make it, in the eyes of everybody, a strictly non-political, national issue.
With regard to the rights of women, I do not intend to deal with that question. As to the President's position, I think everybody in the House and in the country who appreciates the circumstances of the case will realise that we must have a head of the State. There will be differences of opinion as to what his powers should be. Some people think that he has too many powers under this Constitution. I think there are definite safeguards in that respect. In the first place, the President has to be elected by the Irish people. They are not likely to elect a President who will be so tyrannical that he will force the country into constitutional crises or impose cost on the country by referring matters to the people by means of referendum unless he is absolutely satisfied that it is necessary to do so. The very fact that the referendum is such a costly process is in itself, in my opinion, a deterrent. There is the alternative provision, if the situation should be created, that the matter is to be referred to the people, that it can be referred by way of a general election. In addition to that the President presumably will have the confidence of the Government of the country.
I do not think that it would be possible for any person to be elected to this high office by the votes of the people if he had not in a very great measure the confidence not alone of the political Party which had a majority at the time—clearly, he might be elected even against the vote and organisation of the political Party in a majority at the time, but to have a real chance of election he would, I think, have to be admitted by all Parties to be a person who was suitable for the position from the point of view of character, capacity, and an anxiety to give fair play to the Government in office, and at the same time anxious to see that the provisions of the Constitution, which are designed to ensure that the people shall have the final say and that they shall be the masters in the long run, are not abused or wrongfully used.
As I have said, fault may be found with the Constitution on the ground that it is not more liberalistic in its principles. There are certainly qualifications, but these qualifications are based first of all on a sense of realities: on the experience that we have had of self-government in this State and on the conviction—it might be much easier politically to adopt the other attitude—that it is better and fairer to the Irish people to lay down exactly what the principles are upon which the country is to be run than to lay down high-sounding principles which have very little merit except that they sound well and have been used by other people. Undoubtedly, over a very long time, as we have seen here, they can be swept away overnight in certain circumstances and in certain emergencies. We have laid down principles which we think are based upon realities and upon practical experience and which as regards their social aims are, we believe, in consonance with the entire spirit and philosophy of the Irish people. If they have the advocacy and adherence of all Parties in the State and of all citizens, they are calculated, we believe, to bring about a state of social peace here, a high standard of comfort and prosperity among the people. Above all things they will be calculated, if passed into law—none of us can say with certainty what will happen in the future, but certainly the principles in this Constitution can be accepted by all Parties and can be passed by a fairly unanimous vote of the Irish people, and if we are all agreed to do our utmost to carry those principles into operation, I think we can safely say that we have done everything that was humanly possible— that we could not do more as human beings—to ensure that our country will be spared and saved from the dangers that have overwhelmed other countries. We would be saved from these dangers so far as it is in our power to protect ourselves from them, and we would also be laying at rest some of the big issues that we could be discussing here for months on end but that, when all is said and done, are the principles that the ordinary Irish people hold, the principles that have come down to them, the principles that they hold and to which they wish to remain faithful.
I just want to say one or two words, Sir, on this stage of the Bill, before it is finally passed. I was rather sorry that I was not here to-day to hear Deputy Cosgrave's speech. I understand, from some of the speeches that have been delivered to-day, that Deputy Cosgrave has declared that he is not going to recommend this Constitution to the people. Well, I suppose the interpretation we all must put upon that declaration from this moment is that that is an indirect way of attaching a political tag or a Party label to a Constitution. I was not surprised —although I would rather have heard the statement in his own phraseology —that that was the attitude taken up by Deputy Cosgrave, because I am sure all of us who remember what occured on the eve of the last general election will perceive that he is quite consistent and that he is running absolutely true to form. We remember his famous speech in Naas, practically two or three days before the poll, when he made the great announcement that he would even go one better than Fianna Fáil on the issue then before the country.
That is not an issue in the present Constitution.
Quite, so, Sir. Everybody knows that the country must have a Constitution of some sort, and for good or evil this is the Constitution at the moment. If Deputy Cosgrave will not recommend this Constitution to the people, and if he will have nothing to do with it, so to speak, well, then, he must have some other alternative. I was just wondering to myself, would it be in Deputy Cosgrave's mind at the moment that he might be thinking of re-introducing in this country the old Constitution which was originally sent across to England and which was blue-pencilled by British Ministers?
Apart from other considerations, it might even look well from Deputy Cosgrave's standpoint. At any rate, he could claim some responsibility and some authority for it. I did not see a copy of that old Constitution, but as we all know—any of us who have been in the national movement for any considerable time past—very few people in this country would have taken exception to that old Constitution as it was before it was blue-pencilled by British Ministers. Perhaps Deputy Cosgrave might be thinking, as on the last occasion in connection with the question of the land annuities, that here is a glorious opportunity for saving the failing fortunes of his Party by submitting to the people, at the last moment, that old Constitution, and saying to the people: "Here is an alternative to the Constitution proposed by President de Valera, and if I get back into power I will put this Constitution in operation and thus improve on the position obtaining at the moment."
As I say, Deputy Cosgrave's attitude is consistent in that regard, but he is even more consistent, and so are some of the members of the Front Opposition Benches, in their attitude to certain other things in connection with this Constitution. I was watching the effect on Deputy O'Sullivan in the Dáil the other evening when we were discussing Article 38. When we came along to that, you could see the Deputy, for whom I have a great regard, beaming and with his face wreathed in smiles. I suppose he was saying to himself: "At last, the Lord has delivered President de Valera into my hands," and he got up and attacked him—and in a way also congratulated him—on the inclusion in the Constitution of a provision for the setting up of special courts. It was really humorous to see the attitude of Deputy O'Sullivan on that evening; but going back a little bit, and talking about Constitutions, it seems to me that the very words used on that occasion, and used extensively since throughout the country, about the President's conversion, have been used on other occasions also. It is not the first time that the word has been used and, apparently, it is to be in the dictionary of Fine Gael for all time, because there was another occasion when there was talk about Constitutions and when an effort was being made to try to develop an atmosphere of peace in the country and to try to get away from the unfortunate incidents of the civil war; and what did Deputy Cosgrave contribute to that discussion at that time? Well, his contribution on that occasion may have been eloquent all right, but it certainly was not very elegant, because in a speech at Carlow at that particular time he said, in effect, that "de Valera, after getting his wallop, said that he was not out for destruction, but that was only after he learned the evil of his ways; when the nation had struck hammer-blows at him he said he was converted, and it was a remarkable conversion."
That was the first time we heard about President de Valera's conversion, and we have heard of other conversions of his since from the Opposition. The last time we heard of it was the other evening when we were discussing Article 38 of this Constitution. I think that these words had better be dropped. I am not at all surprised or disappointed at the attitude taken by Deputy Cosgrave, because it is just politics—absolutely pure, sheer political Party moves in going to the country—something on the same lines as Deputy Cosgrave's famous resolution of a short time ago that negotiations be re-opened with the British on the question of Partition, among other things—negotiations on a very comprehensive basis, including Partition.
I was prepared for moves of that kind, because it is only Party politics, and I was often wondering to myself what would have happened if we had closed with the resolution. It would be very interesting to hear from Deputy Cosgrave and his colleagues on the Front Opposition Bench what particular reason he had for suggesting that negotiations could have been opened under that particular heading at all. He must have had some information.
The Deputy must confine himself to the document before the House.
I was leading up to the Preamble, Sir.
The Deputy's introduction is very longdrawn.
Deputy Cosgrave must have had some information, or he must have had some intention of being able to bring off the contents of a resolution of that kind. I am sure that Article 2 of this Constitution offers nothing at all to Deputy Cosgrave with which he could find any fault. It is the declaratory Article in the Constitution, which says: "The national territory consists of the whole of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas." Article 1 says: "The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of Government." I was listening to Deputy Rowlette talking a few moments ago on the subject of the North, and I heard Deputy MacDermot also make a remark, during the course of the speech of the Minister for Defence, to the effect that the Minister was optimistic if he thought the people of the North had any sympathy for this Constitution.
I wonder does anybody read the newspapers at all? I have read a number of speeches by eminent clerics— and they are not Catholics either— giving their opinions on this Constitution, in the North, and I say that, if it were possible and if the machinery could be devised, one of the things I should like to see occurring and taking place would be that a plebiscite could be taken in the Six Counties and that the Referendum on this Constitution could be made to apply there as well as in the South. I can assure Deputies in this House that the result of such a referendum as that would certainly define much better, from the Irish-Ireland standpoint at any rate, where the boundary ought to be between the North and the South.
I was up there yesterday. I was up in Tirconaill and along the Border, and I saw people from Derry City and from other constituencies, and I can tell the Deputies in this House that it is marvellous to see the amount of interest that is being taken in this Constitution by people in that area. Somebody jocosely remarked: "When are we getting our ballot papers?" That is the mentality up there, and is it not grand that that should be the mentality? Is it not much better to have such a Constitution as that, even though the clauses dealing with Partition are only declaratory clauses and even though they can only be so at the moment? Is it not much better to have this than to have a Constitution such as we had before with some gentlemen like Mr. Churchill or Mr. Lloyd George pointing out to responsible Ministers in this country: "No; this Constitution applies only to the Twenty-Six Counties in Ireland and beyond that you must not go"? That is what we had before, but we are not having that now.
I agree with the Minister for Defence that, as he said in the concluding portion of his speech, there is a greater volume of opinion in the North in favour of the reunion of Ireland than ever there has been before. I do not think that that reunion will prove an insuperable difficulty in time to come. This Constitution goes to the people of Southern Ireland without the imprimatur of the leader of the Opposition. We were all in this House when he was appealed to to let it go as an agreed measure, but notwithstanding that this document goes to the people without his support. Even though it does not go to a vote in this House, it will go to the people of the country, and Deputy Cosgrave and his colleagues as leaders of the Opposition will be asked if they do not want this Constitution what do they want. That is the question that cannot be burked as Deputy Cosgrave tried to burk it. Whether they like it or not, the question will be put to them when they go to the country, and Deputy Cosgrave will be asked what is his alternative to the Constitution. Surely it is only fair that the Deputy should state what his alternative is. Is it the old Constitution? Is it the Constitution that was dictated by British Ministers? Is it the old Constitution as amended by President de Valera since he came into office? Surely this House was entitled to have from Deputy Cosgrave this evening what his alternative to this document was. Every voter will be asked by the presiding officer to vote on the Constitution, and, as has been explained by the President, they can vote for the Constitution and against our candidates or for our candidates and against the Constitution if they so desire. In a speech which the President delivered down the country—I forget exactly where—he said the Government were not standing or falling by this Constitution, that that was a matter for the people.
We have now the leader of the Opposition stating that he will take no responsibility for it and that he will not recommend it to the people. What does he recommend to the people? That question will be asked of him and of his supporters when they will be asked: "Are you voting on the Referendum for this Constitution?" Surely some instruction should go out from the Opposition leader on that matter. I should like to hear the view of a Deputy with such a distinguished national record as Deputy Seán MacEoin, who is in the House at the moment, on that matter. I should like to hear whether he will go to the people of Longford-Westmeath and say to them that he will not recommend this Constitution. I should like to hear his view on that matter and to compare it with that of the leader of the Opposition because after all the people will have to decide this matter. I have not the slightest doubt that there will be a majority of the voters of the country in favour of the Constitution. All of us will have to live under the Constitution after it becomes law. If there is an alternative, we should hear of it but this merely negative policy is not one, I am sure, of which a distinguished Deputy of this House like Deputy MacEoin would approve. It is a purely negative attitude, an attempt to play Party politics on a vital question which not only affects the people here now but future generations of this country.
As I have said, the clause dealing with the unity of Ireland is only declaratory at the moment. I do not think anybody will say that it was any great pleasure to me to listen to the speech of the President in that regard when the motion which I put down on the subject was tabled in this House. I should like to see the unity of the country and I should like this Constitution to be made the instrument leading up to the unity of the country. It has been criticised from many angles but, in many speeches and lectures delivered by clergymen and others in halls and churches, the greatest admiration has been expressed for the Constitution. It has to be remembered that many of the speakers did not belong to the same sect or religion as the vast majority of the people. I know what I am talking about when I suggest that there is a certain mentality in the North at the moment that is willing to consider the unity of Ireland, whether on federal lines or on some other basis. Not one of the people there, to whom I have been speaking, has any fault to find with either the phraseology or any other feature of this Constitution. You will, of course, hear some "grousing" about the Irish language. There is no doubt about that. I have to admit that but that is something that will have to be got over. If ever they are going to come into an Irish Parliament their views will have to be considered. I do not see why that should be an insuperable difficulty to get over as far as the unity of the country is concerned. After all, the vast majority of the people have some rights in making the Irish language the official language of the country. It is the language of their fathers and they have a right as well as any privileged minority in another part of the country to say what the official language of the country will be.
I am delighted to see that Deputy Cosgrave and his colleagues, who usually ornament the Front Opposition Bench, after their final attack on this Constitution have left their seats. They are all gone now, and it seems to me to be a happy augury to see the Front Opposition Bench in the last debate we shall have on this Constitution occupied by an O'Neill from Kinsale. It is a splendid augury when we remember that his forefathers came from Tyrone. He and Deputy Seán MacEoin sit alone in their glory on the Front Opposition Bench. Is that not a united Ireland already practically established? Deputy Cosgrave passed out through the door after saying that he would not recommend this Constitution to the people, leaving behind him an O'Neill to hold the fort and carry on. That, I think, is a splendid augury.
Deputy Cosgrave tried to draw a comparison between the manner in which this Constitution was drafted and the manner in which the Constitution for 1922 was drafted. He said that in 1922 they had legal and administrative experience, and that in this case the work was the work of one man. Of course, that whole statement is absurd. If we are going to have comparisons at all as to the care and the manner in which this Constitution was framed, and the manner in which the Constitution of 1922 was framed, there is no doubt whatever that the comparison would be altogether in favour of this Constitution. In 1926 a political organisation was formed in this country, the first and foremost purpose of which was to replace the existing Constitution, with its Articles framed outside this country, by a Constitution which would be framed by Irishmen for Irishmen. Ever since that organisation was formed, it faced steadily towards that goal, and there was kept in mind constantly the idea that as far as the political objective towards which they were aiming was concerned, that objective could not be reached until that part of the policy had been fulfilled. You have in this document here the fulfilment of that purpose, steadily pursued over a period of nine years. The first part of that work had to be carried out by wiping out of the original Constitution those dictated Articles, those Articles which were held by the vast majority of our people to be inconsistent with their rights. The first thing was to clear away the site. That was done, laboriously, over a period of years, educating the Irish people as to what their rights were in the matter and what their strength was in the matter; and it had all to be done against the determined opposition of those who originally accepted that position only as an alternative to immediate and terrible war. Now, we can understand all that. We understand human nature, and can understand how that might be so; but it is a pity that that diehard attitude in that respect should be continued up to this moment.
I say that, as far as we are concerned, we have faithfully pursued that purpose, and constantly had it in mind. We constantly had in mind what would be at the end of the road, as far as we were concerned, in that regard. Therefore, the principles which would be enshrined in this Constitution, which was to be the Constitution framed by Irishmen for Irishmen, were in our minds over the whole period of years, and the principles which we had in mind were being carefully tested by the experience which we were gaining throughout the whole time. So far, therefore, as those who had the responsibility of enacting the principles were concerned, nobody can suggest that this thing has been hurriedly done. As far as help from experts is concerned, I hold that we had at our disposal in the framing of this Constitution experts far more experienced, whether it be from the point of view of theory or practice, than any of the experts who were called in to frame the original Constitution, the constitutionalists that went over to Great Britain. We had, at the starting point of that, the work which was done by that committee. We had the result of their labours before us. We had their views before us and we had the result of those views and principles in so far as they were embodied in that Constitution and tested over a period of 15 years. We had Departments with legal experts in them, with administrative experts in them, every one of whom was consulted as to the bearing on their particular Department of any Article of the Constitution. Therefore, I repeat that, as far as the drafting of the Constitution and the care that was given it are concerned, there can be no comparison between the first Constitution and this one, except a comparison which is altogether in favour of the present document.
Then there was the question of the Assembly which passed the old Constitution. It was a single Party Assembly practically. There was a Labour Party, but their views were ignored in most of the things, and there was outside that Parliament at the time another section which represented at least a very strong element of public opinion. Who is going to compare that Assembly in 1922 with the Assembly to-day? It simply cannot be done. You have in this Assembly here, sitting in at the discussion of this Constitution—who could have sat if they were interested—a body of men on both sides who had experience of administrative government in this part of Ireland. Therefore, you had not theorists but people who knew to what extent it was reasonable to hope that theory could be put into practice. I hold that, of all the Constitutions that I know of, there is none that can compare with this from the point of view of having been drafted by people with experience of their own conditions, and with the necessary expert and legal opinion from a theoretical and a tested practical point of view. I make that claim for it. Most of those Constitutions are drawn up after a period of turmoil in which you have not got this experience which we can claim here in this House. We have a constituent right. If we wished to exercise that constituent right we could enact a Constitution of this sort, but we prefer not to enact it; we prefer to go to this stage when we are only approving it and recommending it to the Irish people for their adoption, so that this, their fundamental law, might be an act of the people themselves.
It is nonsense then, absolute nonsense, to suggest that this Constitution has been hurriedly drawn up. The drafting of it, in one form or another, has taken over a year. Its principles were decided on over a year ago. Those principles were determined finally after a number of Government discussions. As to the actual drafting, I cannot give an exact date now, but there was a question even of bringing it in last September. The question of bringing it in at that time was under consideration, but the drafting has gone on steadily certainly since that time. I want to tell those who suggest that the Irish was only an afterthought, a mere translation of the English, that the Irish drafting has gone on pari passu almost from the beginning, when the fundamental ideas that were accepted for the Constitution were being put in draft form. It is true that, as far as the literal drafting of the Constitution was concerned, it has been largely left to one person, because it is better obviously, when principles are decided upon, that there should be largely a common hand running through the document. You have got a uniform style if you used that method. If you used the other you have something of a hotch-potch. But that does not mean that that Draft was not criticised. It does not mean that that Draft was not changed from its original form to the form in which you have it now, finally. It was changed a number of times, but the principle was to get those changes always expressed and put in their final shape—in regard to the transitory provisions at any rate—as far as possible by the one hand. The Irish has gone side by side with that. We got the most competent people we could find for the Irish. This Constitution has been criticised and examined closely by language experts, and just as we have had no real serious criticism of the document itself from the practical point of view, or of its principles, we have not had, as far as the Irish language is concerned, any criticism that was worth while. Therefore, as far as the Irish version is concerned, it is a document of which we can be proud. It will set a headline, I hope, as far as documents of this sort are concerned, and as far as Acts of Parliament are concerned. One of the advantages, I hope, will be to give to many in the Dáil a vocabulary in relation to matters discussed here, and to enable us to participate much more readily and easily in Parliamentary discussions than was possible up to the present. When this Constitution is passed by this Assembly—as I hope it will be— and by the people, I hope that it will find its way into the schools of the country, and that it can become a text for teaching civic obligations and civic duties, social rights and social obligations, as well as teaching the Irish language, in so far as the terms we have in the Constitution are applicable to this subject.
Will you increase the teachers' salaries?
In all good time the teachers' salaries will be taken care of. Whatever may be done, you may be perfectly certain that nothing will be done for election purposes. The Constitution, I claim, is a carefully constructed document that does what it was intended to do in a simple manner. It can be understood in English by the average citizen, and in Irish by the average person who has a knowledge of Irish. That is the claim I make for it. What else did Deputy Cosgrave want us to do? Were we to have a new Constituent Assembly called? I claim that such a Constituent Assembly could not possibly do the work if the Dáil set itself out to do it properly. If it did not set itself out to do it properly, then the blame is not on these benches but on the opposite benches. We had the spectacle to-day of the Leader of the Opposition coming here and saying to the people of Ireland that he could not recommend the Constitution. I do not remember him having come to the Dáil once to take a practical share in the discussions on the Constitution. If it was regarded as a matter of indifference, one would imagine that the Deputy would carry out that indifference to the last, but he comes in now, acting as an expert, to tell the Irish people what the Constitution means for them. Not once do I remember him to have taken any practical part in the discussion on the Constitution. Elsewhere he plumes and preens himself as having longer experience than anybody in this country of the headship of Government. We have had the experience, when a Constitution which is to become the basic law for our country was under discussion in Parliament, that the man of all others who claims to have more experience of the practice of headship of Government than anyone else refrained from taking part in it. I must admit that I find it difficult to understand such an attitude. I could understand an attitude of total indifference. It is like his own arguments in the matter. He stated in one breath that the people were treating this matter as one of indifference, and in the next breath he tried to make out that there was genuine alarm at the provisions of the Constitution. There is either cause for alarm or there is not. If there is cause for alarm he should have been out from the first to explain what the cause for alarm was and why this Constitution should not be allowed to go through.
His legal colleagues did so.
At the last stage he did not allow his legal colleagues to do so. I hold that any man who has been at the head of Government for a number of years ought to be able to form some opinion on matters of constitutional law.
And so he has.
Therefore, he ought to have been in his place if there was any matter for which there was cause for alarm. Of course, as we know, the pretence of alarm was without any foundation. That the rights of women, for example, are being filched from them is absolutely untrue. There was no right or safeguard that women had in the past that is not being continued for them in the Constitution. What has been done is that the advocates of certain views have pressed that there should be constitutional safeguards for the future over and beyond the safeguards that existed up to the present. I was not averse to giving these, because I think the situation was such that there was no fear whatever that there would be any entrenchment on the liberties or the equality that women possessed as far as civil and political rights go. However, I met what I regarded as completely unjustified pretences. Deputy Costello admitted on one section, when I put the question to him, that there was in the Constitution, as it stood, no attack on women's rights. Deputy Cosgrave wants to get the people to think that there is genuine alarm on the part of women as regards filching away from them some constitutional rights they possessed up to the present.
What other alarms are there? What other pretences are made for alarm? There was the question of a dictatorship. I dealt with that so often that I feel I should not waste time dealing with it any more. It is the people, as well as their newspapers, who were directly making for a dictatorship, who bring these charges against us. We fought against that dictatorship. As Deputy MacDermot pointed out, if there was any inclination towards dictatorship, the obvious policy to pursue was to continue the present Constitution and the present position, in which there is far more power with the Government than there will be when this Constitution is passed. If a parliamentary majority of one can do all the dreadful things suggested, that majority of one could do still more dreadful things to-day. As to the suggestion that the President in a new Constitution is given dictatorial powers, that would not stand examination for a minute by any serious-minded person who took the trouble to read it. I have analysed his functions on several occasions. The only executive functions he has are of a purely formal character. Executive power rests with the elected Government which, from day to day, is responsible to the Dáil. If he has any executive powers they are of a formal character, and have to be carried out at the direction—I think we used the euphemistic word "advice"—of the Government of the day, which has to take responsibility for them. On the legislative side he has a position of responsibility. As a part of the Legislature he is put by the Constitution in the position that, should there be a difference between the two Houses, and if the Dáil used its Constitutional right to override the views of the Second Chamber, the President, under such a position, can come in, if requested to do so, but he must be requested to do so by a majority of the Seanad and by one-third of the Dáil.
If he is requested, and he cannot do it unless he is requested, by that portion of the Legislature, and if he thinks the question is of such importance that the necessary expense should be incurred, he can send it to the people. But, even there, the Government has an alternative. For instance, if within the last six months a position like that had occurred here, with the life of Parliament coming to an end, there is scarcely any doubt that the Government, in order to avoid expense, would have a general election instead. Of course, Deputy Cosgrave wants to have it both ways. He wants to save expense and he does not want this question mixed up with the turmoil of a general election.
I should like very much to see this Constitution put to the people independent of and separate from a general election? But, would it make any difference? Would Deputy Cosgrave's attitude be any different? What hope have we for thinking it would? Would you not have the same campaign? I admit that you would have a single issue—there would be that difference. But, so far as we are concerned, we are trying to make this a separate issue altogether apart from the personnel of our Party at the election. But, as the Minister for Education pointed out, as somebody had to take the responsibility of bringing in this measure, some Party has to take the responsibility of recommending it to the people. It will not simply go of itself. You have to have it recommended, and we will have to recommend it. The more Deputy Cosgrave opposes it, the more we will have to recommend it; because if there is going to be this opposition to it, and if we cannot have this considered as a set of rules which will govern us all, then there is only one thing left to be done, and that is to see that the majority, at any rate, will have their will as against the minority. Would the position, as I say, be any different? Would not that be exactly the position we would have had to face without the general election if Deputy Cosgrave took up the attitude he has taken up to-day? Of course it would. Therefore, we have had to put this forward at this time. It worked out in time to be so, to start with; and we are putting it at this time, rather than apart from the general election, mainly because we think the two can go together and that there is a saving of expense.
I do not think that the sum in question is as large as Deputy Cosgrave suggested. Every time you have to have a vote of that sort it will cost money, no doubt. Therefore, there is that in itself to restrict it. It will not be a matter of fun to send these Bills to the electorate. Therefore, those who are responsible for doing it would have a certain responsibility on their shoulders for putting the country to that expense. They will not do it obviously unless it is necessary, and that is a check to any abuse. But, who is going to say it would not be money well spent if there was a measure of a vital character being put through by, say, a small vote in this House against, say, a strong vote in the Second House, in conditions in which the people were not likely to take the view of the majority here? Would it not be money well spent to have the people's view upon that and have it definitely determined? I can imagine that any such expenditure would save the nation very much more expenditure. Consequently, we are in favour of the Referendum and of giving the President this power in that restricted sense.
I would remind people who talk about the 1922 Constitution as a wonderful piece of legislation that in that Constitution, after all the expert examination of it and its consideration by the constitutional Assembly, there were provisions for Referenda and for the Initiative. But, when we tried to use the provision for the Initiative, and when it did not suit the majority Party at that time, they thought of something more than the expense. The expense was used no doubt as an excuse, but the occasion on which they deleted that particular part of the Constitution was when we wished peacefully to get rid of the Article with regard to the Oath. But, notwithstanding the expense which it would cost, these experts at that particular time anyhow thought that we should have not merely the Referendum, but also the Initiative.
I remember how I was mocked at when I spoke on the question of expense in connection with the Seanad. I was told that it was a mere trifle in a Budget of some £30,000,000. I was told that it was trifling to talk about the expense. Now, Deputy Cosgrave no longer thinks it is a trifle. It is all very well to go out at election time and talk about a £100,000 a year President, as if the President was going to cause a Referendum every year. The President cannot send any measure for a Referendum unless the Seanad at least asks him to do it.
If the Seanad is not going to be economical in regard to the expenditure of public money, then you have the good sense which I hope will be exercised by the President to see that it is only when absolutely necessary that Referenda will be held. You may be certain that you are not going to have one every year. The Government of the day has an alternative. There is a period of 18 months during which the measure in question can lie by, so that if the Government is going to the country it can go to the country with the carrying of that measure as part of its programme. If it is returned, the President has no option but to sign the Bill and let it go. It is nonsense to talk about £100,000 a year being spent by the President on Referenda.
As to the President's election, it is very interesting to find that the Opposition wanted to have the election every five years. I tried to keep the period as reasonably distant as possible and made it seven years. Deputies on the opposite benches were not satisfied with that; they wanted to have it every five years. It is obvious that it would be more expensive to have an election every five years rather than every seven years.
Going back to the question of the President's dictatorial position, clearly he has not it on the Executive side, and he has not it on the legislative side, except to the extent of saying: "In my opinion this is a matter of such fundamental national importance that it should go to the people for determination." If he exercises that, he is exercising it as the guardian of the people's rights, so that Parliament may not enact a measure to which a majority are opposed, particularly if it refers to fundamental matters. What is the use, then, of continuing the pretence that the President is in a dictatorial position? Clearly he is not, and nobody has shown that he is.
Reference has been made to the fact that in the Constitution as it stood originally there was a provision by which the President would not be immediately amenable to the courts, the natural understanding being that the President would conduct himself in such a way that he would not have to be brought to the courts, and that those who might care to blackmail him—it might amount to blackmail because of his position—would not have any inducement for doing so. It is not unknown in Constitutions to have provisions like that. As a matter of fact, they are fairly common. There was nothing exceptional in it, even if we did provide it. However, there is no use dealing with these matters and exploring them time after time. They are going to go on until the end of the election repeating these things, no matter how many times one shows up the falsehood of the arguments adduced.
Now we come to the Prime Minister. Deputy Cosgrave tells us that the Prime Minister or the Taoiseach is to be in a predominant position. The fact is that he is not being put in any stronger position than the position the President of the Executive Council had occupied here in practice during these periods.
Deputy Cosgrave said that the Prime Minister ought not to be in such a position as to be able to force the resignation of a colleague. Of course he was always in that position. Because if one of the Ministers was acting in such a way that it was not possible to carry on with the team, the President would have to speak to him and say: "There is a difficulty here; how are we going to manage it? Either you see eye to eye with us or you are definitely opposed to us; we are not a Coalition Government; we cannot carry on as a team." If that Minister did not resign, then naturally the President would see the other members of the Government and talk to them on the matter. Finally, if this particular Minister were so conducting himself that the carrying on of the Government would not have been possible, the President would easily have got him out of the Government. He would, of course, have to use a cumbersome process. He would have to come down to the Dáil and resign, and his whole Government would have to resign. If he had sufficient strength with his Government he would have to re-form that Government without the particular Minister that he objected to.
Now, is it right that there should be such a round-about process for doing a thing that could be done in a straightforward manner? The suggestion is that these things could be done in the dark. They could not be done in the dark. No head of a Government can get rid of one of his colleagues without the fact being known. Someone must be appointed in his place. If they go before the Parliament as a body the matter will have to be raised, and if that member were strong enough in the old position to prevent the President of the Executive Council from forcing him to resign, he would be strong enough in the new position. Both are really the same thing. It is a question of whether the particular Minister has a majority of the Executive Council or a majority of the Dáil or not. For that reason I say that what is being done here has been to translate into practice what has been done in the past. The President of the Executive Council in the past was elected by the Dáil. He was made responsible for the election of his team. He selected that team, he was responsible for keeping that team together, and he was expected to keep uniformity so far as that could be done. He was the central pivot on which the whole Government was arranged. The duty placed on him by the Dáil was to see that the team was kept together as a unit and that it worked as a unit. It was his responsibility to see if he was unable to perform that duty that the Dáil was made aware of it so as to make it right again. That is the position that is here.
It is suggested that the Taoiseach will have power in future to get a dissolution without going to his colleagues first. It is nonsense to think any Taoiseach will do that. The whole Party, including the Taoiseach, will have to go up for election. He will have to be supported by the majority of his colleagues, and, normally, he cannot and will not force a dissolution against their will. If he were to do that, the Taoiseach would be breaking up his Party and prejudicing the chances of either himself or his colleagues getting back again as a Government. The difference between the new and the old constitutional position is this: that everybody can clearly see the new constitutional position, and it is not hidden away. It puts upon one individual the direct responsibility of keeping his team as a team and seeing that no one member is going to prevent it from working as a team, and where necessary bringing pressure on that particular member to leave the Government. If the Taoiseach does not get him to work with the team, he can get him removed from the Government. He can only do this in practice if supported by the majority of the Party. Clearly he could not do it without the support of the majority of his Party.
There is, therefore, in the Constitution nothing to justify the suggestion that the office of President is one of dictatorship or that the Prime Minister is put in a position over and above that which he occupies at present. This is only making explicit what was implicit all the time so far as the Taoiseach is concerned. The two persons, the President and the Taoiseach, if they carry out the spirit of this Constitution will be working together, one may say, detached from the immediate political arena, giving, I hope, detached and wise counsel, and if you have a good man as President and a sensible man as head of the Government, they will work together for the national and common interest. That does not mean that you will be dragging the President into Party politics, because he will be bound by the Constitution and his duty to give, in case of a change of Government, to the new Taoiseach the same advice, the same help and the general support for the common good as he was giving to his predecessor.
You cannot take away from human beings their political views. It is possible that if you have a President elected from one political Party that he will be suspected of leaning to one side more than to the other. The man, if he is honest, will believe in the principles he had been advocating when he was a politician. He will give advice to the Taoiseach saying to him: "My view is so and so," but the other man is free not to take it. There is no division of responsibility. There is the direct responsibility of the Government from day to day for governmental policy. The President has nothing to do with policy except as an adviser in the background. He is supposed to be experienced and to give to the man in the turmoil the view that the hurler on the ditch can get of the game looking at it from the point of view of the national interest.
What other point in the Constitution have we? There is this question of the rights of individuals, which, we are told, are threatened. Deputy Cosgrave again refers to that point. I think I have his quotation here, but then we know the general sense of his remarks and there is hardly any need to quote them. The suggestion in his speech is clearly this: that the new Constitution puts the average citizen in a position of less freedom than he occupies. It is very interesting to take up this copy of the old Constitution, as it exists. I hope all Deputies will take a copy with them as a lasting souvenir. The old Constitution consists of about 64 pages of print—the English version— leaving out the parts dealing with transitional provisions. There are 26 pages taken up with Article 2A, and this is the one thing in the whole Constitution that is left untouched. If you look through it you will see that nearly every other Article has been knocked out.
The freedom of the individual in the present Constitution is to be read in that part of it which has not been changed up to the present, that is, Article 2A. If you want to know what freedom there is for the Press, for the individual, for forming associations, you will find it all in Article 2A. It is nonsense, then, to say that the rights of the individual citizen will be more limited in their exercise in the new Constitution than in the old The only difference between the two is that one is honest. It tells the citizen clearly that there are certain rights which he is entitled to exercise, provided, and that provision was always there, they did not conflict with the general interest, the common good, the general welfare. That has always to be done. There is no use in talking about the rights of individuals and saying that they should be able to exercise those rights quite irrespective of whether the exercise of those rights interferes with the equally good rights of their neighbours or the rights of the community as a whole.
There is no Constitution that has been able to last carrying out these principles; they do not correspond to real life and they do not correspond to justice. What we have done in our new Constitution is, we have indicated clearly that there are limits to the exercise of the rights which we naturally have. I have a right to do a number of things, but my neighbour has the right not to be interfered with, and, if the exercise of my right interferes with his equally good right, there must be some adjustment between us, and that is the position, too, with regard to the community as a whole. We are not living as isolated human beings upon this earth; we are living as human beings in society, where we have neighbours who have equally good rights, and the general interests of the community as a whole have to be considered.
Where we have indicated any limitations on the rights of the individual, we have indicated that these are rights which should normally be freely exercised, but if the exercise of these rights conflicts with the rights of our neighbours or the community, then they have to be adjusted accordingly, and there is no way of adjusting them except by the Legislature from time to time taking account of the circumstances of the community. You have it in the Constitution that the liberty of the person is inviolable, and you have Article 2A at the same time. There is no Constitution in which these rights can be stated absolutely. They have to be qualified, and there is no qualification in our Constitution of any of those rights except such a provision as is necessary to prevent liberty degenerating into licence, to prevent liberty being exercised at the complete negation of the rights of one's neighbour or the community as a whole.
The charge that this is taking away liberties is as unfounded as the charge that we are setting up a dictatorship, or making way for a dictatorship. Anyone who reads the Constitution and who tries to understand its principles will be compelled to take the view that Deputy MacDermot is taking. He is not a member of our Party. He has acted, so far as I can see, as an Independent member in these discussions, and I paid a great deal of attention to his criticisms, because I felt for the most part that these criticisms were not going to be like some of the criticisms from the opposite benches; they were not going to be criticisms motived purely by Party purposes.
I found, when listening to the arguments from the opposite benches, that I could very easily distinguish, one from the other, criticisms which were just and seemed to be well-founded, criticisms from a legal point of view, for instance, and criticisms which were obviously motived by Party opposition. I paid attention to them all as best I could, because I promised to keep as open a mind as I could in these discussions. I think it is always well, if there is any document drafted by certain people who have been working on it from day to day for a period, to get the views of those who have not been associated with the drafting of it and who will see things at a glance that would be hidden from those working on the preparation of the document. I think I did keep an open mind in regard to all suggestions, but I have to confess that I could not blind myself to where obviously points were being put up from a purely Party point of view.
We are going to send this Draft Constitution to the people, and if I were asked to say what is the chief recommendation of this Constitution to our people I would say, first of all, that it is a practical document, that it can stand the test, that there are no trimmings about it such as we were told of when the Initiative was being taken away in the old Constitution. It is a frank document, a practical working document. It will stand the test and can be operated and it has safeguards for our people. The rightful liberties of individuals are safeguarded and it safeguards the community as a whole from what would happen if each individual in the State was to use his own liberty without any regard to the rights and liberties of his neighbours. It gives you a practical instrument capable of doing everything that a Constitution ought to do.
It is not a rigid Constitution; it is wrong to call it a rigid Constitution. Compared with what would properly be called a rigid Constitution, it can easily be amended. It can be amended at any time that the Parliament wishes to send the amendment to the people. It can be amended without any special expense because there are amendments which can be put to the people at the time of an election. There are some amendments which can be very well held over until there is an election, and you save expense in that way, but whenever there is a need to get the Constitution amended by putting it to the vote of the people there need be no delay. It could be done in a month or so. If there was any change in the Constitution that became really necessary it could be put through by the people in the course of a month. We have provided for a reasonable period of three years in which, if there are any minor amendments to be made in the Constitution, they can be made by the Legislature.
For what is the principal value of this Constitution? It is this: that it enables every group and every Party in the State, no matter what their views with regard either to the internal or the external policy of the State, to accept this Constitution and to work it loyally. There are no barriers in it to any Party that we can see arising in this State, no matter what its internal or domestic policy may be or what our policy with regard to external relations may be. It is, I claim, a great recommendation to all the people that we should have an instrument of government of this sort which will enable all parties to come peaceably together and to resolve their differences, no matter how great they may be, without violence. If this Constitution had nothing else to recommend it except that, it would be worth all the labour that has been expended on its drafting, it would be worth all the trouble there is in getting it before the people, and all the time that we have spent on it. Remember that we have spent no mean time on it. It is ridiculous for anybody to say that this Constitution has been rushed through. It has been six weeks here before the people.
During that period it has been here for the people to study it, and for publicists and experts of various kinds to consider it, and if there were any fundamental flaws in it they should have been discovered long before this. If we had to use the majority here to get it through, would you not have to do that in any case? Even if we were a Constituent Assembly for that purpose and nothing else, would you not have to form a group within that Assembly to work on the Draft and push it through? We have, of course, used the majority here to put it through because there was nothing else to be done. If the Opposition take up the position that they are against it, well then what can you do? You have got to get decisions, and the only way you can get decisions is by a vote, so that we are only doing what would happen in any Constituent Assembly.
I have dealt with its value from the point of view of giving a common ground to which all Parties can be loyal. There is nothing in this Constitution that anybody, no matter what his views on the external policy of this country may be, cannot loyally accept. There is objection to it from one or two points of view. It is said that it is not preparing the way for the ending of Partition. Deputy MacDermot was the Deputy who, of all others in the House, expressed that view. I want to repeat to him the argument which I used when he pressed that matter on a previous occasion to a vote in the Dáil, and that is that if the unity of our country is to be brought about there must be an adjustment of viewpoint. We must get some common ground for it. Now, the majority have rights as well as the minority, and it ought not always to be a question of the majority surrendering all the time. I pointed out to him in that debate that there were limits to these surrenders. I suggested to him that it was possible you could get the unity of Ireland by going back to the British House of Commons: going back to the old Union position. There are people in the North who demand that that should be the price for the unity of the country. I am sure the Deputy would not be prepared to pay that price, and that he would believe that that price need not be paid. I pointed out to him also that there would be some people who would say: "Very well, you cannot stand by the views that you hold from the religious point of view; you will have to compromise somehow on these, either by way of expression or something else." I do not believe that either. If that were the price it is obvious that there could be no compromise. What you could stand for is to give to those whose convictions on religious matters are not the same as those of the majority a guarantee of the free exercise of their own religious practices and beliefs. That is all you could ever give.
There is, therefore, this balance between what the majority can concede and what the minority are seeking. I say that you cannot go farther than we have gone in this Constitution to meet the view of those in the North without sacrificing, to an extent that they are not prepared to sacrifice, the legitimate views and opinions of the vast majority of our people. This Constitution has been designed on that basis. Here you have to assure to the majority the things which they will not sacrifice no matter what would be gained in regard to the unity of the country by the sacrifice of them. That is my opinion. Deputy MacDermot thinks that the majority here are prepared to sacrifice more. As regards Deputy MacDermot and his opinion and mine in this matter, I can only claim that I have been now for some 20 years closely associated with political opinion in this part of Ireland, and I am convinced that you will not get the majority here to go one inch farther than is provided for in this Constitution. I think that if they were to stay there they would have made big concessions towards the minority, and this is the basis, if there is to be one at all, in my opinion, on which you are going to get unity. You have, first of all, to see what is the distance that the majority are prepared to go to in the sacrifice of their opinions to meet the sentiments and the opinions of the minority. There is a distance beyond which they have a right to say they will not go. My view is that this expresses the limit to which the majority of the people in this country are prepared to go in order to meet the sentiments of the minority, and that if you meet them at all you will meet them on a basis not behind us but farther advanced: that this indicates the utmost limit to which you can go in the way of concession to meet the views of the people who are differing from us.
What is there in this Constitution in the way of concession that would not be there if the Northern problem did not exist at all?
The Deputy had better not ask me to go into the origin of a number of other things that would possibly be in this Constitution if the Northern problem were not there. If it was not there, in all probability there would be a flat, downright proclamation of the republic in this. That is one.
Well, the Deputy ought to know that we did it before.
The Government knows more now.
Well, that is a question. There were wiseacres then who told us various things and who, if we had listened to them, would have kept us where we were, in Westminster. And we cannot very well judge of the future. We do not know what the future may bring. We may have got older. We may have got wiser, or we may not. There is, undoubtedly, all over the country a number of young people who probably think that we are reaching the old fogey stage by now, and he would be a very bold man indeed who was going to predict and say that our wisdom was more finally true and more effective than their unwisdom. There has been many a time when I was taunted with being a very impetuous young man, and so on. I remember hearing of all the red ruin and revolution, and all the terrible things that were ahead. They did not stop us, because we felt that there was an object which was well worth going for, and, thank God, I have lived to see a great deal of it accomplished. There are younger people who probably have not had the buffeting— have not had the corners knocked off of them, so to speak—that has been done in our case. They, perhaps, have hopes beyond what our hopes are, and I should be very sorry to think that there might not be, possibly, in their unwisdom a greater amount of real truth than in our wisdom.
I can tell the Deputy that we felt it very difficult to justify, in 1917, the programme we set out to accomplish. It was a very difficult task. You had people who had given long years of service to the Irish nation and who had long years of experience behind them. We were young men, and we had to go before them and talk to the Irish people and put up our inexperience against their experience and our determination against their prudence; and now, one way or another, at any rate it has come to this, and this is not the last.
Now, as I say, in my opinion—and I can only give my opinion and my judgment—from this point of view, if you are going to have unity with the North, you will have it on conditions which will not be behind this Constitution, but ahead of it; and the aim in that Constitution has been to give the greatest amount of concession that the majority here could give without abandoning what they regarded as their own rights and their own principles.
In 1921, when we had the same problem to face, it was the fact that we had that problem to face that led the Republican Cabinet of that day to say that there was a certain form of association which they were prepared to envisage, provided that it was understood that that was meant as a concession to the sentiments of the people who differed from them in this country, and provided that that concession was going ultimately to mean unity. We failed in that, but as years have passed by and I have had more experience of our people, I have been more firmly convinced that the concession that was being offered then, and the concession for which the basis is here if it is wanted to be used, is the greatest concession which the majority are ever going to make, even for the sake of unity, because there are limits to the distance that the majority can go.
Well, now, I think there is other work that the Dáil has to do, and I think I have said all I want to say here. I am moving this and asking the Dáil to approve of it. I think that, however we may have differed in the last 15 years in various points, every one of us, if we leave aside the question of possible Party advantage, could vote for this Constitution—each one of them claiming, if they want to claim it, that they have done more than the other in bringing about the possibility of its being enacted. I think it would be a happy day for our country if that were done. I had hoped, at a certain period, that it might be done. I had wished that it would be done. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon has convinced me that I was mistaken. I am perfectly certain, however, that I am not mistaken in this: that even if this Dáil refused this measure, even if this Dáil refused to put it through, just as certain as I was that the Oath, which stood in the way of the unity of our people here and the unity of our representatives, would go the moment you got the Irish people massed behind you on the matter; so I am certain now that if I were to be defeated on a vote here this evening and put into opposition, I could put that measure through with the will of the Irish people, against any opposition over there, because it corresponds to something for which the Irish people have longed for over 100 years, anyhow; something which they have now an opportunity of doing; something which they know would save this nation from the possibility of the terrible things that have happened in 15 years. There is behind this Constitution the possibility of uniting the Irish nation as it was not united for the last 15 years, and I appeal to everybody who wishes to see this nation advance to come and support this Constitution, even though there might be possible Party advantage to be got from opposing it.
As I have said, I am convinced that the Irish people, once they are appealed to, will support this Constitution, and I ask all those who, 20 years ago, set out on a piece of work which was regarded at that time by a lot of the wise people in the country as being an impossible task—I ask that all those, at any rate, will come together now and see this portion of the work accomplished.