Agreements Between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the United Kingdom—Motion of Approval.
Welcome to the convert to Fine Gael.
I suppose the Deputy knows the story, "You and I are one, and I am the one." I move the motion on the Order Paper:—
That Dáil Eireann approves of the Agreements between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the United Kingdom, signed at London on the 25th day of April, 1938, copies of which were laid on the Table of Dáil Eireann on the 27th day of April, 1938, and recommends the Government to take the necessary steps to give effect to the provisions of the said Agreements.
Article 29 of the Constitution, Section 5, is as follows:—
1 Every internationál agreement to which the State becomes a party shall be laid before Dáil Eireann.
2 The State shall not be bound by any international agreement involving a charge upon public funds unless the terms of the agreement shall have been approved by Dáil Eireann.
3 This section shall not apply to agreements or conventions of a technical and administrative character.
And Section 6 of the same Article provides:—
No international agreement shall be part of the domestic law of the State save as may be determined by the Oireachtas.
In accordance with that Article, I am moving this motion. The House is being asked to approve of the Agreements circulated in the White Paper which I expect is in the hands of every Deputy. You will notice that the preamble is a common preamble covering three agreements, the intention being to show that they are one whole, that they are a related whole, and that they have to be accepted by the House as a whole or rejected as a whole. If Dáil Eireann approves of these Agreements, effect will be given to them by the six Bills the First Reading of which has just been permitted. The first of these three Agreements has reference to Articles 6 and 7 of the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, signed on the 6th day of December, 1921, and to the Annex thereto. I am sure that the Deputies have acquainted themselves with the substance of those Articles. However, it is no harm to read them to the House. Article 6 of that Treaty provides:—
Until an arrangement has been made between the British and Irish Governments whereby the Irish Free State undertakes her own coastal defence, the defence by sea of Great Britain and Ireland shall be undertaken by His Majesty's Imperial Forces. But this shall not prevent the construction or maintenance by the Government of the Irish Free State of such vessels as are necessary for the protection of the Revenue or the Fisheries.
The foregoing provisions of this Article shall be reviewed at a Conference of Representatives of the British and Irish Governments to be held at the expiration of five years from the date hereof with a view to the undertaking by Ireland of a share in her own coastal defence.
Article 7 provides:
The Government of the Irish Free State shall afford to His Majesty's Imperial Forces:—
(a) In time of peace such harbour and other facilities as are indicated in the Annex hereto, or such other facilities as may from time to time be agreed between the British Government and the Government of the Irish Free State; and
(b) In time of war or of strained relations with a Foreign Power such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require for the purposes of such defence as aforesaid.
The Annex enumerates "the specific facilities required" which are mentioned in the Articles that I have just read, and they refer to the dockyard port at Berehaven and to the harbour defences at Queenstown, Belfast Lough, and Lough Swilly; to facilities in the neighbourhood of those ports for coastal defence by air; to oil fuel storage at Haulbowline and Rathmullen, and to Conventions to be made between the British Government and the Government of the Irish Free State with reference to the landing of submarine cables, to lighthouses, war signal stations, and civil communication by air.
Now, the first of the Agreements completely abrogates Articles 6 and 7 and the Annex, and provides for the handing over of the defences in those ports, which are at present in the hands of British care and maintenance parties, to the Irish State. On the British side, this Agreement has to be confirmed by legislation. In their Parliament, I understand, a single Bill covering the whole Agreement is to be introduced. Here we are doing it in our own way by this resolution in the first instance with the necessary implementing legislation. When the necessary legislation has been passed there are to be transferred to the Irish Government the British Admiralty property and rights at Berehaven, that is, the rights that they claim under the Articles of Agreement, the harbour defences at Berehaven, Cobh—or Queenstown, as it was referred to in the Annex — and Lough Swilly, together with the buildings, magazines, emplacements, implements and fixed armaments with ammunition therefor at present at the said ports. The Agreement provides also that the transfer is to take place not later than the 31st December, 1938. In the meantime, the detailed arrangements for the transfer will be the subject of discussion between the two Governments. The effect of that Agreement, as I have said, is to hand over to the Irish State complete control of those defences, and it recognises and finally establishes Irish sovereignty over the Twenty-Six Counties and the territorial seas.
I do not think it is necessary for me to stress to anybody who has desired the independence of this country the importance of that agreement from the point of view of Irish sovereignty. The ports are handed over unconditionally. They belong to us as a matter of right, we have always held; we are glad that that right has been recognised, and that now we are to have them. Among the Articles of the Treaty of 1921 that gave most offence to national sentiment were these, because they meant that part of our territory was still in British occupation. Unfortunately, we cannot say to-day that Irish sovereignty is effective over the whole of Ireland, but when this Agreement is confirmed it will be effective over Twenty-Six Counties. I am confident that, having got to that point, it is only a matter of time and, I hope and believe, a short time—before somebody speaking from this bench will be able to announce to the whole Irish race that at last the British people have been wise and the British Government has been wise, and that our people here in Ireland, of all sections, have been wise; and that Ireland at last is a completely independent, sovereign State. Whatever person may have the good fortune to be able to make that announcement it will, for him at any rate, and for the Irish nation also, be a proud moment. It will mark the end of one of the greatest struggles in history by a small nation to maintain its separate nationality and its rights as a separate nation. Unfortunately, we have not yet got to this point, and if I thought for one moment that the agreements which we have here and which I am asking you to approve of would put any obstacle to, or delay for any time the final securing of, those aspirations, then I would not be found here asking you to approve of them. I am asking you to approve of them, however, because I believe, not merely that they put no obstacle in the way, but that they do in a variety of ways constitute a positive advance towards that final goal.
These Agreements, as a whole, will remove from the field of dispute between Great Britain and ourselves all the major items now, except that one. The whole Irish race can now concentrate upon that one, and, with a united effort, I believe, as I have said already, that a completely independent, sovereign Ireland will be achieved, and it is a matter of great satisfaction to me to know that henceforth, whatever differences may have divided us here on questions of national policy, once these Agreements are passed the vast bulk of the Irish nation will be reunited and all marching together towards the same goal. This achievement appears to some people to be so great that they can hardly believe that it is true. They are looking for the snag somewhere. Their attitude is: "Do we believe our eyes when we read this?", and I have been challenged to say that, if we wanted to, we could destroy the defences of these ports. I have said, and I repeat, that we have got these defences unconditionally. What we do with them is a matter for Irish policy. So far as this Government is concerned, we have long ago indicated our policy. This Government has made it quite clear that in looking for sovereignty over our own territory we meant to defend that sovereignty: we meant to do what other nations have had to do, and that is, defend our interests and our rights. If, then, those who talk like that simply want to confuse issues, I make them a present of it. If they want to confuse the steps which an Irish Governmennt has to take, in its independence, in its full sovereignty, to defend its territory, with some suggestion that there has been a bargain or something of that sort, they can do it. There has been no bargain. There are no conditions. There is no secret understanding, but there is a belief, I am certain—a belief which I have tried, over 20 years, to get into the minds of British Governments and of the British people, in so far as I could —that it is far better for Britain, far more advantageous for Britain, to have a free Ireland by its side than an Ireland that would be unfriendly because of liberties which Britain denied.
I have said that the Irish Government, that this Government anyhow— and that has been our policy and will remain our policy—is not going to permit its territory to be used as a base of attack against Britain. I have said that for many years now. I indicated the policy which is behind it as long ago as 1920, when, on behalf of the State of that time—of the Republic— I made a request to the Government of the United States for formal recognition. We mean to see that whatever use is made of our territory will be only that use which is agreed to by an Irish Government in the interests of Ireland and in no other interests; and it is in the interests of Ireland to see that our territory is not going to be used as a base of attack upon a neighbouring country.
We shall, then, have to defend our territory. There are some who say that that is going to mean money. Of course, it is. Freedom always means a certain expenditure of money. If, of course, we were prepared to take the line which, say, Lord Craigavon is taking—I think he said some time ago that he was quite content to allow his defences to be in the hands of the Imperial Navy—if we were content to allow our defences to rest in the hands of the British Government or the British War Office then we would not have to pay directly for defence, I suppose, but we would surely be paying indirectly. What we spend on defence now we shall be spending directly. The Votes will have to be passed by this House, and not a penny need be voted beyond what this House, by its majority, may deem to be necessary and proper.
In taking over these ports, then, this Government, at any rate, does not mean to leave then derelict. This Government, at any rate, means to see that they are modernised if necessary, because these harbours and these ports are, obviously, points of strategic value. Any State that could easily get them would be glad to get them and to hold them, and it is our duty to our own selves and our own sovereignty to make sure that when we have them nobody else will be allowed, except with our permission, to use these harbours. Consequently, although it is not a matter that immediately comes up in connection with this Agreement, I am indicating our policy, lest there should be any misunderstanding when, for example, an Estimate dealing with defence would be brought forward. Subsequent Governments will be free to change that policy if they think it unwise, just as this Government can change a policy if it thinks it unwise, but as I have said on previous occasions, and as I have said many times here in the Dáil and in public, I cannot see any responsible Government here that would permit its territory to be used as a base of attack upon Great Britain. It is obvious that to do so would immediately involve us in war with Britain, directly or indirectly; and having got rid of British interference by peaceful measures now, we certainly would not be wise, and no Irish Government would be wise, in involving itself in a war of that nature. I have always said that in my view an independent Ireland would have interests, very many interests, in common with Great Britain. In providing for our defence of our own interests, we would also of necessity be providing to a certain extent for British defence of British interests. I think that the British Government that made this Agreement has shown greater wisdom than any previous British Government.
Anybody who would regard this as a one-sided bargain would be making a very big mistake. Britain is undoubtedly going to get from this Agreement part of the advantages which I predicted would be hers if the whole of Ireland were an independent State, and on the day on which the whole of Ireland is recognised as a completely independent State, the full advantages will accrue to Britain. But Britain is getting from this Agreement advantages which will probably be greater relatively for her than the advantages we are getting for ourselves. It is only agreements giving advantages to both parties that really last. A good agreement is one in which both sides have an interest in its continuance, and the British, no less than we, will have an interest in the continuance of this Agreement. I think it is not necessary for me to say more about this Agreement. We are getting the ports unconditionally, and this Government at any rate intends to defend them, and to see that they are not used by any foreign power that might covet these harbours as a basis of attack either against British trade or against Britain herself.
The next Agreement has to deal with finance. There has been a dispute——
We all remember.
——ranging now over a number of years with Britain in regard to certain financial matters.
Queen Anne is dead.
You did your best to keep her alive.
In order that we may go back a little and understand exactly what we are doing, I am going to quote to you from a despatch which was sent to me on the 9th April, 1932, by Mr. Thomas. Portion of the earlier part of the despatch had reference to the land annuities, and he begins paragraph 7 of the despatch in this way:
"Such is the nature of the land annuities. The formal and explicit understandings referred to in my despatch of the 23rd March are as follows: On the 12th February, 1923, a financial agreement was signed on behalf of the British Government and on behalf of the Government of the Irish Free State, which, inter alia, laid down the policy to be pursued in regard to completed and pending agreements for the purchase of land in the Irish Free State. The first two paragraphs of the agreement read as follows:
"‘1.—The Free State Government undertake to pay at agreed intervals to the appropriate fund the full amount of the annuities accruing due from time to time, making themselves responsible for the actual collection from the tenant purchaser.
"‘2.—The security for such payments shall be primarily a Free State Guarantee Fund similar to that under existing legislation, and, secondarily, the Central Fund of the Irish Free State."
"This undertaking was confirmed in the ‘Heads of the Ultimate Financial Settlement between the British Government and the Government of the Irish Free State,' which was signed on behalf of the British Government and on behalf of the Government of the Irish Free State on the 19th March, 1926, and discussed in Dáil Eireann on the 8th December, 1926. The first Head of this settlement reads as follows:
"‘The Government of the Irish Free State undertake to pay to the British Government at agreed intervals the full amount of the annuities accruing due from time to time under the Irish Land Acts, 1891 to 1909, without any deduction whatsoever, whether on account of income-tax or otherwise.'
"As stated in my despatch of 23rd March, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom regard undertakings of this character as binding in law and honour on the Irish Free State, whatever Administration may be in power, in exactly the same way as the Treaty itself is binding on both countries."
From that day on the land annuities dispute took on a new aspect. We had argued about them, as you remember for years before, but now the argument was based on the claim set out in the paragraph which I have read to you. You know that we denied that claim. We have denied that these moneys were either legally or morally due, we refused to pay them, with the result that the British made arrangements to pay themselves indirectly by putting special duties on our products, and we in turn, retaliated by putting certain duties on British products.
We had some discussions with the British Government about these annuities during the last six years.
We made at certain times proposals that the matter be sent to arbitration. But in connection with arbitration a crux arose and that had to be abandoned. In addition, I may say that under the head of the land annuities the claim made by the British represents in their view a capital sum of £78,000,000. In addition to that there were claims under the headings of pensions of various sorts, local loans, etc., that amounted to £20,000,000. That was all in addition to an annual sum of £250,000 provided for under another agreement which in our opinion stood on altogether a different footing from those referred to by Mr. Thomas. That other agreement had been formally approved by Parliament. It was ratified by Parliament and we did not question the payment of the annual sum. We have continued to pay it during the last six years. That £250,000 will continue to be paid under the present Agreement unless some agreement is at a later time made between the two Governments which would either provide for its capitalisation or for some other arrangement in connection with it. But it is provided in this Agreement that that payment be continued.
In regard to the rest, the dispute is settled for a payment of £10,000,000. That payment has to be completed by the 30th November and one of the Bills which have been introduced here to-day has reference to the method by which that money is to be secured and paid. As a consequence of this Agreement, the penal duties by means of which the British indirectly got the money which they claim was due to them—roughly £5,000,000 a year—will disappear and also, on our side, the corresponding duties which were put on by way of retaliation. That covers the substance of the second Agreement— the financial Agreement. Some may say that this is not a good Agreement. I have repeatedly stated my belief that if we were making agreements on the basis of justice—if sheer equity was to decide these matters—instead of paying money to Britain, whether a big or small sum, the payments should be made the other way. That is still my conviction, that, on the basis of sheer justice, if there was to be a payment on either side, it should be made in the opposite direction. We have agreed to this payment, which represents two years' purchase of the sum which the British were collecting by means of these special duties. We are making this Agreement and we are recommending it to the House. You may, if you like, regard it as ransom money. Look at it as you will, we are making it because we think that it is in the national interest that this settlement should be made. Now I have stated, as it appears to us, what sheer justice would suggest, but the matter was not approached from that point of view by the negotiators on the other side nor, probably, would it be so approached by the British Parliament. Their attitude will be—well, we can collect these moneys; why shouldn't we go on doing so? If there are Deputies in the House who think that we must secure what appear to be our rights in justice, well and good, they will have to vote against this Agreement and say that this money should not be paid. As I have said, we have agreed to pay it because we think it is in the national interest that the payment should be made and the dispute put aside. We no doubt will be told that it could have been done years ago.
Nobody is going to believe anybody who says "hear, hear," like that. This settlement could not have been made years ago.
That is enough. Go on to the next business.
It is disagreeable to hear the truth.
As the Deputy was so ready to say "hear, hear," he can listen to a little more. I say this settlement could not have been made some years ago.
Perhaps you will tell us about Ottawa.
The Ottawa offer exists in the imagination of the Deputies opposite.
Not at all.
The Deputies on the opposite benches tried to get some settlement on a mere moratorium, a mere quarter of a million a year, and were flatly turned down. They could not do it. If they could, why didn't they do it?
Nonsense, and you know it is nonsense.
If this could have been settled, then why wasn't it done? It was not done because it could not have been done.
Because the signatures of the people who were occupying this front bench were on these agreements. Could it have been done earlier, since we came in? I say no, it could not have been done. In this very despatch of which I have read a portion, you will find mixed up with this question of the financial arrangements certain constitutional questions. The effort was being made to try to force us by means of economic pressure to give way on constitutional questions. We had to resist that, clear all the constitutional questions that we wanted to deal with out of the way and then we had a field in which constitutional questions were not being drawn across questions of quite a different character. That Agreement could not have been made without the sacrifice of constitutional rights before the Constitution was introduced. Since the Constitution was introduced, could it have been made? If it could I would have known it because, not merely since the Constitution was introduced, but before it, I did my utmost to find out whether it was possible to get the British Government to take the Irish view and to recognise the justice of the Irish case in regard to these annuities.
It has been done now, because there has been a concurrence of a number of propitious circumstances. It has been done now because, in the first place, there is not running across it any constitutional question or any inducement to try to bargain by means of these moneys—to bargain for constitutional rights — and, secondly, because, as I have said, there are at the present time a number of concurrent circumstances which enabled it to be done. It has not been done without a hard fight. When negotiators on the one side take the view that money should be paid in one direction, and those on the other side take the opposite view, and when the amounts are huge amounts, it is not easy to come to agreement. One of the circumstances that have made agreement possible is that you have in Britain a Conservative Government, which is able to make its will effective, which feels that it has the strength to make its will effective.
Anybody who has studied Irish history must have learned this fact, that if ever there was to be settlement between Ireland and Britain, that settlement would have to come in a time not when you had a Liberal Government, but when you had a Conservative Government in office, because the Conservative Government, once it convinced its own people that the Agreement should be come to, was not likely to be opposed by either Liberal or Labour, who themselves would have advocated such a course long before, but would have been unable to carry it out. One of the things, then, that makes this Agreement possible is that you have at this moment in England a Conservative Government that can, in Parliament, make its will effective. Another circumstance which makes it possible to have this Agreement is that you have in Britain at the present time a Government that is taking broad views of international questions, a Government that does not fail to recognise the importance, from their point of view, of a settlement like this.
I am not going into a number of other circumstances which, fortunately, at this time, all concurred to make this Agreement possible. One thing more than another that is to be welcomed is this, that it is the first occasion that I, at any rate, have seen on which a British Government has taken the wise view, the wise policy, in regard to this country, and recognised what I have already mentioned, that a free, independent and friendly Ireland is going to be of much greater value to Britain than an Ireland that Britain tries to keep in subjection. Just look at the map of Europe to-day. There was a time when I wished, like a number of other Irishmen, that Ireland was 500 miles farther out in the Atlantic Ocean or, alternatively, was between Britain and the Continent. We might, many of us, wish that we were another 500 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean to-day as far as European affairs are concerned, but there is one thing that none of us would wish, and that is to exchange the position of the two islands and go between Britain and the Continent. Any Irishman who looks at a map must recognise that, from the Irish point of view, once Britain becomes friendly, once there is no interference with Irish affairs, no Irishman will regret that we are on the far side of Britain and not between Britain and Europe at the present time. In those conditions a strong Britain would be a defence, a barrier to attack from the Continent. Once we were free and wanted to maintain our freedom we would be anxious to see that Britain was strong and that Britain was not attacked, through us as the backdoor, at any rate. Consequently, I say what I have already said perhaps a number of times to-day, that it is good British policy to have an independent Ireland that is interested in maintaining its own independence, and because it is interested in maintaining its own independence and that it has not to fear for that independence from Britain, it is interested in seeing a strong Britain as a shield and a barrier between her and the dangers of the Continent.
This is nothing new. It is something you can find at any time in statements I have made since 1920. But it is new in this, that it is the first time that a British Government has taken that view of matters, and it is fortunate both for this country and also for Britain that the present British Government does take that view. Perhaps I might say something further. I might say it is a fortunate circumstance also that the present British Prime Minister is the Prime Minister, because there is no doubt that that Agreement could not have been made were it not for the fact that he believed in that policy in Britain's interest, and that at critical times he used all his influence to try to get the difficulties overcome. If, then, this Agreement is possible now, let nobody say it was possible three or ten years ago. The fact that it was not made before we came into office is proof, I take it, that our predecessors could not have made it, because the events or the circumstances were not, let us say, propitious. Neither could it have been made by us before the Constitution was through for the reasons I have given. Although that is not long ago, nevertheless even since then the Agreement could not have been made until the proper circumstances and the proper conditions arose. I am glad it has been made. I believe it bodes well for future understanding between the two peoples and that that understanding will communicate itself to people who, at the present time in this country, do not view political affairs and Irish interests in the way we view them.
Now I come to the third Agreement. The third Agreement is of a different character from the other two. It has no relation to past disputes. It is an agreement which might be made at any time between one independent country and another. It is a bargain, give and take, by which we get advantages in the British market for our produce, and Britain gets advantages in our market. So far as detail, at any rate, is concerned, there is no doubt that it was far more difficult than the other Agreements, because it involved a great deal of individual investigation and individual negotiation. Perhaps I should say now, rather than at another time, the fact that an agreement such as this has been possible is largely due to the hard work not merely of the Ministers concerned, but also of the officials, who were painstaking and assiduous in their work during a long period.
It is not easy to give a summary of the trade Agreement. But in its main outlines it provides for advantages in the British market which, for example, are better than could have been got at any time. We have been hearing some references to Ottawa. This is an agreement from which this country gets in the British market all the advantages that would have been got by Canada, Australia, New Zealand or any of the other States of the British Commonwealth. The difficulty in making the Agreement was to make sure that any concessions which we gave in it should not handicap us unduly in pursuance of our policy of building up industries here, industries that we regard as necessary for the national life. I think that position has been safeguarded. In the detailed debate, no doubt, various matters will be referred to, and they can be argued here as they will be argued elsewhere. But we claim that this Agreement does not prevent our giving to our industries reasonable protection, protection which will enable our industries to exist provided that these industries are conducted with reasonable efficiency.
I think I have covered the ground of all the Agreements. I have indicated the standpoint from which we have approached them. If they are good and satisfactory—and they are held to be so by our people—the only thing we claim in connection with the matter is that we have used a favourable set of circumstances wisely. We could not have made these Agreements if the circumstances were not favourable. We claim that they are reasonably good for us. We do not think that any other men would have done better in our place. I am glad, therefore, to recommend the Agreements to the House, and to ask the House to give us the necessary legislation to implement them.
The Agreements which have been recommended to the House mark a decided and in some respects a welcome change in Government policy. The speech to which we have just listened might, perhaps, have been more happily phrased and might have taken, on this occasion at any rate, less of a Party tinge. The Government is welcome to whatever advantage it can derive from this particular Agreement. It is welcome to any propaganda that it has had at its disposal in connection with the Agreement or in connection with the history of the last 15 or 16 years. Not much of that Agreement could have been heard of in this House but for the history of this country before the present Government took up office. I do not begrudge them any advantage they derive from it. I do not believe what the Prime Minister has just said that only in the circumstances of the last few days or the last few months was an agreement such as this possible. My view is that at any time during the last five or six years an agreement as good as that Agreement was possible.
A three-day job.
Well, it would have been much easier to have done it in three days, six years ago or five years ago than to-day.
Or seven years ago.
The Deputy says "or seven years ago." Now very extraordinary things have happened during the last seven years. The Deputy who has interrupted has become very wealthy during that period. I have no objection to a person acquiring wealth so long as it is not acquired by doing injustice to other people. But I do recollect that in these last six or seven years one section of the community in this country has suffered far beyond anything that could have been contemplated even by the most depressed political exponent of economics. It is a very great satisfaction indeed to the Opposition in this country that the Government has seized and put into effect the principal policy that we have been putting before the people in these years. It is a very great satisfaction to me and to my friends and we hope that this Agreement will be satisfactory; that it will not press unduly upon any section of the community and that there will not be heart-burnings on the part of those who during these last six or seven years put their sweat or their money into Irish industrial development.
I am not going to say any of the things that would have been said if a Ministry from this side of the House were to have made and brought here that Agreement. I am not going to start the whispering throughout the country, whispering of the kind that had been the policy here during the years previous to the period when this Government took office. We have always been interested in the improvement of the lot of those born and reared in this country, those who are of the soil of this country, who are anchored in it and cannot get out of it if the times get bad or opportunities for acquiring wealth are not as easy as they have been during the last few years. There was a period when British troops left this country, and many a man and many a woman were deprived of the happiness which was theirs by reason of that departure. We do not grudge the Government any of the happiness that they are deriving from taking over the ports that have been under the control of His Majesty's Imperial forces during the last 15 or 16 years. We could have taken over these ports six or seven years ago. A Minister from my Government was so informed in London. I hesitated to do it. For what reason? At that time the cost would have involved the people of this country in an expenditure of between £350,000 and £500,000.
It is absolutely untrue that you could have got these ports six or seven years ago.
I made no interruption of any speech. I am making a speech here now, knowing what I say to be true. I have had in this country 20 years' experience of public life. During the ten years while I was in the Government, not one Minister of mine uttered an untruth that I knew of, inside or outside my Government. The Minister in question was the Minister for Defence, Mr. Fitzgerald. He stated to me that he had been informed in London that they looked forward, within a very short period, to our responsibility for taking over these ports.
I will show the Deputy the file and he will change his mind.
The Minister can keep his file.
The Deputy should have informed himself.
I have the information from the Minister in question. I said I hesitated by reason of the cost. I propose to vote for this Agreement. There are parts of it which are much better than others, much better. In the course of the speech to which we have just listened, reference was made, and I believe reference was also made last night, to the sum of money involved in the annuities dispute. It was mentioned as £78,000,000. I should like to know where that figure was obtained. I question that figure. The land stock amounted to something like £130,000,000 either in the year 1925 or in the year 1932. Its value in 1932 was slightly higher than in 1925. When I say its value, I mean the Stock Exchange quotations of the value of the stock. I have taken the trouble to-day to make out what it was. I find that in 1932 it was approximately £96,000,000, and in 1925 it was approximately £88,000,000. I presume that the North of Ireland would be responsible for approximately one-fifth of that. That would bring it down very close to £77,000,000. In the Agreement to which the Prime Minister refers, I think he has ignored the fact that the British Government accepted responsibility for the service of one-fourth of the interest and the principal, and I presume we may deduct that one-fourth from the £78,000,000, which would reduce the sum very considerably. If you are taking into account capital sums, I think that even the Minister for Finance will admit that there was £6,000,000 of local loans of an asset at the same time, so that the debt diminishes very considerably from the sum we have heard mentioned.
This Agreement would have been of great value to this country six or seven years ago. Its value to-day, having regard to what has transpired during these years, is very largely discounted, diminished very considerably. I would have much preferred to have heard to-day the Government's proposals for reconstruction, for some effort to get the last penny of value out of this Agreement, for some message of hope for those who have been practically crushed and almost destroyed for the last six years, some scheme for getting the last penny that can be got out of this Agreement. That it will give a message of hope I believe, but there are those to whom this trade Agreement will be a disadvantage rather than an advantage. I refer to rarmers whose stocks for one reason or another have been reduced, and who will find themselves in much greater difficulty now, having regard to the advance in prices which will take place.
The Agreement, as we have heard, makes no provision for the cost which will be entailed by our responsibility in those ports. That, to some extent, diminishes the cash value of the settlement. There is certainly another disadvantage in this Agreement and that is that our fiscal freedom will be no longer what it was. I confess myself to a sense of national humiliation in that respect, that it should have been necessary for us to get taught that lesson by our neighbours. Not with any sense of pride, but rather with a deep humility, do I say that. The economic policy pursued by this country should have been one that would have stood by itself and one for which it should not have been necessary to get the corrections, improvements and restrictions which are involved in this particular Agreement.
I think that it would have been better in recommending this particular Agreement to the Dáil that we should not discriminate as between one Government and another in Great Britain. We can, if we like, exchange our confidences about these matters but they should not be mentioned in Parliament, that one particular form of government is more favourable to deal with than another.
Reference was made to the fact that the moratorium which was asked for in 1929 or 1930 was turned down. Let us now carefully consider what the circumstances were at that time and what the circumstances are to-day. When Great Britain had to leave the gold standard, it was a subject of great commiseration, condemnation and exploitation by some of the gentlemen on the far side. When it happened there was no country in Europe, in the world, that was as sound financially as we were, none. In that strong position which the facts of the case disclosed, it was obvious that we were not going to get any great accommodation from a country that was staggering off the gold standard. It so happened that if they were in a position of financial unevenness at that particular time, they had the genius and the resources to restore themselves. The fact is that the application was made, a register of the case. It was there registered and available for consideration and decision at a later time.
Say now—at this moment?
Yes, I would say now, because of the different financial positions of the two countries. A very different case could be made for it now than was made for it at that time, but it would not affect the issue in the least, as to whether or not the undertaking subscribed to could be carried out. I would like to remind Ministers opposite that the very earliest pronouncements of the Government in connection with Great Britain were not couched in very friendly language; that their approach to any negotiations or dealings they had with the British were not so framed as is customary in the relations between one country and another. There has been a change. We have heard many compliments bestowed on the Prime Minister and upon other Ministers of the Ministry beyond. I am quite sure they are well deserved, but I venture to say that if the same Prime Minister had been in office seven years ago it would not have been approached in these complimentary terms. At any rate, whether the purpose of the Agreement will afford an opportunity for vindicating the prophecies of the Ministers of that Party or the prophetic announcements made for a great number of years, the problem now before us is acceptance or rejection of the motion. We propose to subscribe to its acceptance. We hope it will give an opportunity, not only to farmers, industrialists and operatives, but to every section in the community to rebuild our national economy. We venture to express the hope that if the Prices Commission has the right to inquire into how industries have been run, the prices they have charged, and the general conduct of their business, then I think some other institution ought to investigate the Government's administrative activities to see whether or not they were as economic and careful in the management of public moneys as they are expecting the industrialists to be in their private affairs.
Whatever views may be taken of this Agreement it will be generally recognised, not merely by Deputies, but by every citizen, that it is bound to have a very important effect upon the future course of development of this country. From that standpoint it is not possible for the House to devote too much time to the Agreement or to the instruments which may be introduced here for the purpose of giving it legislative effect. There are some questions surrounding the Agreement upon which I would like to be able to obtain further information from the Taoiseach. In the course of his opening remarks he told us of the desire—a desire which is shared by Nationalist Ireland—that the dismemberment of this country should be ended, and that the historic Irish nation should again rear its head as an undivided nation in the comity of European nations. These are laudable sentiments, and this House and the country generally will continue to aspire to their attainment. But the document which has been put before the House for ratification makes no mention whatever of Partition. Although the President told us of the benefits to this nation and to Britain of an independent, united Ireland the document itself is strangely silent as to any provision for the consummation of that idea. I would like to know from the Taoiseach whether, during the discussions with the British Government, any effort was made to extract from them a promise that they would undo the Partition of this country, which is a mischief of their creation; whether any effort was made to induce the British Government to recognise that there are large tracts of territory, comprised in the present Six Counties, where a majority of the people passionately yearn for reintegration in this State.
If these representations were made I would like the Taoiseach to tell us what was the attitude of the British Government, which is continuing to bolster up a type of parliamentary system in that portion of Ireland where a majority of the people are held in subjection to an administration which they detest, and to a political idealism for which they have no use. Large tracts of the Six Counties are populated by people who yearn for the reunification of that territory with the Twenty-Six Counties. What was the answer of the British Government to these representations if they were made to them? Was any representation made to the British Government to restore in the Six Counties a scheme of franchise which would enable a very substantial minority to have some voice in the administrative machine which functions there? Were any representations made to the British Government to end the type of religious persecution which has been practised there, and which has been openly and nakedly abetted by those responsible for governmental administration there? If these representations were made to the British Government, then we and Nationalists in the Six Counties ought to know what was the attitude of the British Government towards them. Is there any indication that in the immediate or even in the remote future steps will be taken to remedy the conditions which everyone knows to be existent in that area?
The Taoiseach told us that the Agreement covered defence, finance and tariffs, and he also told us that these strategic points which are at present garrisoned by British maintenance parties are, in the future, to be handed over to the Government of Éire. I understood the Taoiseach to say that these defences were handed over without reservation. I should like him to confirm that, so that while there was no written reservation, neither was there any mental reservation or any implication that this country would be compelled, either in times of peace or in times of emergency, to utilise these defences for purposes other than purposes to be determined by Irish interests. I take it that there was no reservation in respect of the handing over of these ports, and that the Irish Government now has a definite right, if it so desires, to dismantle and to abandon these fortifications if it was decided that to do so was best suited to Irish interests. I should like the Taoiseach to state that there is no obligation on us to continue to maintain these ports as strategic points of defence, that they may be sacrificed if necessary, and new defences dictated by Irish interests erected elsewhere, and that there is no obligation on us to expend any sum of money if we do otherwise on the maintenance of these defences. We were told that under the Agreement a sum of £10,000,000 will be paid to the British Government in settlement of our financial liabilities. The Taoiseach said, and persons other than those in his Party share the view, that this country was never legally, morally or historically liable for the payment of the land annuities to Britain.
I would like to ask the Taoiseach whether the payment to the British Government of the sum of £10,000,000 is by way of settlement of the joint debt in respect of the land annuities and other payments, or whether it is a settlement in respect of the other payments alone. Can we have from the Taoiseach some information as to whether the British Government have consented to recognise the claim which has been made with every strength from this side that the land annuities were neither legally nor morally due from our people here?
An extremely important portion of this Agreement deals with the question of economic policy and brings within its wake the whole question of the future industrial development of this country. Under the Agreement which has been submitted to us there is provision made for the repeal of a large number of duties. A goodly number of these duties were of a retaliatory character, necessitated by the imposition of tariffs on our exports to Great Britain in 1932. Some of the other duties are not in that category. They fall rather into the category of being protective duties specifically imposed for the purpose of assisting Irish industry. I would like to know from the Taoiseach whether, if it is contemplated at some future date, in accordance with Irish desires, to impose tariffs, if necessary, on that long list of commodities or any of the commodities on that list which are set out in the Schedule of repealed retaliatory tariffs, and if it is proposed in the future to impose tariffs on some of these commodities for the purpose of assisting in the development of Irish industry, we are likely to be taunted by Britain that the decision to do that would be in conflict with the Agreement which is now being submitted for ratification.
We have in Article 8 of this Agreement a paragraph which, I think, is brimful of dangerous possibilities so far as the development of Irish industry is concerned. The Article says that:
"The Government of Éire undertake that a review shall be made as soon as practicable by the Prices Commission of existing protective duties and other import restrictions in accordance with the principle that such duties and restrictions upon goods produced or manufactured in the United Kingdom shall be replaced by duties which shall not exceed such a level as will give to United Kingdom producers and manufacturers full opportunity of reasonable competition, while affording to Éire industries adequate protection..."
Any type of protection which continues to provide for United Kingdom producers full opportunities for competition here is, I submit, likely to operate in such a way as to enable them to sell their products here, and to compete for markets here, to the disadvantage of Irish producers. The Minister for Industry and Commerce is muttering something about economic self-sufficiency——
I read the recent speech of the Deputy.
——which, of course, is not merely buried by this Agreement but has about ten tombstones over it as well.
The biggest one being erected by the Labour Party.
If the Minister for Industry and Commerce only concerned himself with the economic insufficiency which many of the citizens of this country suffer from, I think he would be doing a much greater service to the poor people of this country, and if he would abstain from going to employers' banquets and lecturing Irish workers he would be rendering a similar service. I want to get back to this Article because it is an important one. We are told in the Article that there shall be a review, as soon as practicable, of existing duties and other import restrictions
"in accordance with the principle that such duties and restrictions upon goods produced or manufactured in the United Kingdom shall be replaced by duties which shall not exceed such a level as will give to United Kingdom producers and manufacturers full opportunity of reasonable competition, while affording to Eire industries adequate protection."
There seems to me to be, whether consciously or unconsciously, a conflict of opinion between these two objectives. Any condition of affairs which enables British producers to compete here for the sale of goods to such an extent as to acknowledge the existence even of that competition must have the effect inevitably of restricting the market for the home producer. I think everybody in this country would desire that the Irish producer would get a preference where it is possible to give a preference. He ought not, of course, to get an unbridled preference. He ought not to be allowed to operate under conditions immune from any State supervision. He ought to have heavy responsibilities imposed on him in return for the protection he is afforded. I should like to know from the Taoiseach what is the precise meaning of this Article because it is one which may affect, in a very substantial measure, the future development of Irish industries. We are told, later, in this same Article that:—
"The tariff on goods produced or manufactured in the United Kingdom will be adjusted, where necessary, to give effect to the recommendations of the Prices Commission."
I would like to know from the Taoiseach on that point whether that is to mean that the Prices Commission is to have full authority, not merely to review existing tariffs and import restrictions, but to issue awards which will not be the subject of consideration by the Government whether it is possible for the Prices Commission to make a decision in these matters, and that the Government will be automatically bound to accept, in respect of future industrial development, the recommendations of the Prices Commission? Is it intended that these recommendations should be of an advisory character, or are we to understand from the phraseology of the Article that effect is to be given to the recommendations of the Prices Commission, irrespective of whether the Government, or Parliament, agrees with these recommendations?
We are told, too, in the statements which have been issued on this matter, and the fact, of course, is made clear in the Agreement itself, that a number of the existing tariffs are to be scaled down, the effect being to afford them less protection than they have at the moment. I would like to know from the Taoiseach whether, in the case of the tariffs which are to be scaled down, imports are to be regulated on a quantitative basis, or whether, not merely are the tariffs to be scaled down, but that there is to be permission for the import of commodities on the basis of the reduced tariff. If there is to be a scaling down of tariffs, in some of the industries—particularly in the boot and shoe industry, in which there is a considerable amount of part-time employment at the moment—it may mean the disemployment of a large number of workers, unless there is some safeguard by the regulation of imports on a quantitative basis.
There is another provision in this Article, and I would like to know whether it was insisted on by the British Government, or whether it was conceded as a gesture: that is the provision whereby British producers have the right to appear before the Prices Commission in this country and to argue their case here. It seems to me a rather extraordinary provision. I do not know of any legislation in any country in the world which permits a non-national, resident in another country, to come in and give evidence before a prices tribunal which is considering the question of the future industrial policy of that country. If that is insisted upon by the British Government, does the Taoiseach consider that a provision of that sort is a desirable one in legislation of the kind likely to be introduced?
Those are questions which have an important bearing upon the Agreement. They are questions the answers to which will enable us to understand the Agreement more fully than is possible on such information as has been issued on the subject. I hope that when replying the Taoiseach will be able to give further information on those points so that we may be able to understand the full purport of the Agreement, and the ramifications contained in it.
I understand the debate is to be adjourned?
Yes; I understand that the debate is to be adjourned until to-morrow. If some Deputy who is anxious to speak to-morrow would move the adjournment he would be in a position to continue to-morrow.
I move the adjournment.