Last night we listened to a rather lengthy statement by the Minister for Defence, and included in that statement we had a staggering demand for money. We had a demand for approximately £5,500,000 capital, and a huge increase of some millions in our annual Army expenditure. The defence system in this country for many years back, and the explanations given by successive Ministers for Defence for the annual Army expenditure, were always justified on the grounds that our system was the building up of a small, nonrigid, elastic defence force, which could be extended at any time of danger to put up a reasonably adequate defence according to our means. We were given to understand year after year that the moneys voted were being devoted towards the building up gradually of armaments and stores, ammunition and otherwise. One year after the other that assurance was given. In years gone by the Army Vote, small as it was, was forced through this Dáil in the teeth of relentless opposition from the Minister's Party, opposition based on the fact that the Army in this country was too expensive and, in fact, an unnecessary luxury. Eight years ago the Government changed; Parties changed their position here, and the Opposition adopted a different and a more decent outlook on important State affairs. Since that time, year after year, the Minister has come before this House, looking each year for more money than his predecessor, but his opponents over here—having decided that the Army should be outside of politics and not a play-thing between politicians—year after year without one single division over a period of eight years have allowed the money to go through, and trusted to the competence of the Minister and the honest expenditure of that money given without a vote. I made that statement last week. It was contradicted by the Minister for Defence. I was then speaking from memory. Since then I have looked up the Army Estimates from 1932 to the present moment, and I found that in every year, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, the Vote was put through without a division. Whatever moneys the Minister asked for he got them without a vote.
Committee on Finance. - Vote 65—Army (Resumed).
A Chinn Chomhairle, I have no recollection of saying in my speech in reply to Deputy O'Higgins that the Fine Gael Party divided against the Army Vote. What I did say was that a number of members of his Party criticised it, and complained bitterly about the amount of money involved.
At times it is healthy to have the truth. I will give the Minister his own words, as recorded, and I will leave it to the Minister's knowledge of English to interpret honestly his own words.
As reported at page 199 of the Official Debates of 8th February, the Minister said: "They"—referring to the political Opposition —"have strenuously opposed the spending of money here on this purpose in the past." Strenuous Parliamentary opposition, without even utilising the simple expediency of a vote? Will the Minister come down to earth? Strenuous Parliamentary opposition, if it means anything at all, at least means the utilisation of the simple expedient of a vote, the ordinary first line of opposition to the proposals made, and yet that strenuous opposition to the Minister getting what he required for the Army over a period of eight long years is expressed in the fact that not once in the eight years were his proposals or demands challenged by a vote. All that time, as in the days of his predecessor, the case made, year after year, and the assurance given to Parliament and to the people was that the money was being provided not for the purpose of having so many men looking after one another fairly efficiently, but was being provided towards building up a small and, comparatively speaking, cheap instrument capable of expanding in any emergency so as to fill the defence gap of the country. After those eight years— eight years of trust, eight years of confidence, and eight years of a free hand—the testing time came last Autumn, and when the testing time came we found that the job had not been done, that preparations had not been made, that plans had not been made, that stores had not been filled, that armaments had not been purchased. When that statement was made last week, and substantiated by very apparent lines of evidence, it was challenged by the Minister, challenged in the simple, back-lane style, by merely saying that it was untrue, that all the charges were untrue, and that the position, as stated by the Deputy, was not a fact. The position stated by the Deputy was that there were insufficient armaments, insufficient ammunition and an insufficiency of trained equipment.
"Two minutes' supply," the Deputy said.
That was the line last week—that there was adequacy of everything, sufficient stores, sufficient guns and sufficient ammunition. The line last week was that it was merely necessary to brand the opponents as disseminating an untruth, and to march the docile troops into the Division Lobby. That was only one week ago, but to-day we have the truth of what was said from these benches last week being blazoned to the four corners of the country, and the only case that can be made by those now demanding something like £9,000,000, is the fact that the stores are empty, that the armaments are insufficient, that equipment is lacking, and that, in fact, the job has not been done. We were told last week, in order to get around the awkward corner of the debate, that full and mature consideration had been given to the defence of this country against air attack, and that these steps were taken many months ago. We were told last night that preliminary investigations were proceeding with a view, at some date in the future, to introducing legislation to bring about some degree of safety in that direction. I want to know here and now, whether we were getting the truth from these benches last week or last night. It cannot be both ways. We cannot be always faced with a situation where a man in a responsible office, representing one of the great Departments of State, will use the Government Front Bench to make any kind of statement that gets round an awkward corner in debate, or that gives a fair pretext, for the moment, for divisional support in the Lobbies. Let any impartial person, Deputy or otherwise, read the statement of the Minister one week ago, and the statement on the very same point with regard to the same Department made last night. Practically every statement made a week ago is a contradiction of the statement made last night.
The Deputy should be able to give some quotations showing that one contradicts the other.
The Deputy gave one, as to strenuous opposition over a period of years, and the Minister was silent when it was given. The other was as to the adequacy of stores of armaments, and preparedness of the Department as against what was said last night.
Give a quotation showing where I ever said that we had adequate stores.
Let us take one point. Is it admitted that we were not prepared?
The Deputy said we had only two minutes' supply of ammunition.
Then the motion was all right, and it was merely the statement that we were unprepared was challenged. We could fire for a longer period than two minutes.
The Deputy said that we were only prepared for two minutes. Is he standing over that?
That is the Deputy's opinion, so far as the two debates go, and, so far as the Deputy knows, it is a more reliable one than the Minister's.
I do not think so. Therefore, we have only two minutes' supply of ammunition. Is that right?
We will not get away on a side track. We are talking in terms of millions, in terms of life and death, in terms of national safety, and a mere Ministerial quibble is scarcely a dignified thing to introduce at such a point.
It is a question of truth.
What does matter is that if we were sufficiently prepared last September, then there is no justification for looking for £8,000,000, £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 more; that the menace that appeared very near last September is exactly the same menace that appears to be near at the moment. If we are to take this Estimate seriously, as a responsible demand from a person holding a responsible position, then we have got to consider it in the light, and in the knowledge that we are unprepared at the moment, and that we were unprepared last September. If we are to accept as a fair statement of the position, that we were thoroughly prepared last September, then the extortion of £8,000,000, £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 from the people is not understandable and is not forgivable.
Who said we were unprepared?
I assume the position is as outlined last night, and as outlined in this document and the Estimate before us, that in spite of eight years of a free hand, in spite of eight years' confidence and trust, we are in a deplorable state of unpreparedness, lacking equipment, lacking armaments, lacking fighting machinery and lacking ammunition, and that, in spite of the money that has gone, hard, ruthless sacrifices have to be demanded now to make up for the negligence of the past and the deficiencies of the present. One would expect, whether a Deputy or a taxpayer, when a huge demand of this kind is made by a Department, to be told something about the reason why it is required. We were told in that lengthy statement the amount of money required and what it was required for, but we did not get as much as one word to indicate why it was required. I do not know whether it is lack of candidness, moral cowardice, or cunning, that we must always dodge a clear statement as to where we stand and where we are looking and where we propose to go. One would imagine that any Minister of War, in any Parliament, asking for huge sums from his people, would give some slight survey of the world position and would indicate, to some extent, why danger was threatening their country and from where danger was threatening their country. All that is left out here. We cannot say why we are in danger. We cannot say from where we are in danger. We can only say that that much money is wanted and it is wanted for that purpose.
As far as we got an outline of policy or an outline of anything approaching policy with regard to defence, that outline was to this effect, that we propose to be neutral. We propose to stand neutral as long as we can; we have no desire to hit anybody and no desire for anybody to hit us; but that somebody will hit us and that somebody will be at war with Great Britain; that when that somebody does hit us, no matter how mighty that somebody is, we are going to defend ourselves against that somebody within a sum of £5,500,000, and within a numerical strength of 30,000 men. Is it not time for the Minister to grow up mentally? Does not the Minister know that there are countries in Europe that hope just as anxiously as we hope to remain at peace and to remain neutral, countries that can spend, not £5,000,000 but £500,000,000 on defence preparedness, but there is not a Minister in any of those countries who would have the audacity to suggest that, if attacked, within the machinery put up by £5,000,000, they could adequately defend themselves. Yet, here in this Parliament, perhaps relying on the ignorance, perhaps relying on the innocence and inexperience of our people, the person holding a responsible position suggests that alone, without any provision for allies, without any defensive arrangements in co-operation with any other, within the sum outlined, we can meet any enemy that may think it expedient to fall on this country. We propose to do that, according to the plan laid before us last night, within the sum mentioned, by developing a regular Army of 7,000 men, mainly and mostly infantry, a second line and a third line of Volunteers, again mainly and mostly infantry, by, to an extent, extending the air force, having coastal patrols and mine-sweepers and organising the civilian population to look after themselves.
It stands to reason that if any island —and the smaller the island the truer the statement—is to put itself in a state of defence, the first essential is a sea fleet, a navy, and that the next desirable thing is land forces. What is true generally is true particularly of us. We talk about defence without having as much as an equipped fishing smack on the waters around the coast. If this country is to be attacked (and we are told it will never be attacked by Great Britain) it will be attacked in one of three ways. It will be attacked by a power that lands on our coast by sea or it will be attacked by a power that lands troops in this country from the air, or it will be merely periodically bombed from the air. Let us take the first. If this country is successfully invaded by troops carried over water, that enemy of Great Britain and that enemy of ours has beaten and burst the British Navy and has broken its way through the British Navy and the British Navy is, to all intents and purposes, gone. Do we seriously think that, with a force mainly of riflemen, or with an army of all branches numbering from 8,000 to 30,000 men, we are going to oppose, with any degree of hope, a country that has finished the British Navy and successfully landed on our shores?
I take it as more or less accepted that our real defences of this country are the navy around the waters and our distance from Central Europe. Because of those two factors, I regard an invasion of this country by sea as being extremely unlikely, extremely remote, and I take it that the real danger that confronts us, in the event of a world war, is one of two dangers: either the occasional bombing of our cities, towns, ports, railway lines and communications, etc., or even, possibly, the landing of some thousands of men in this country from the air. Those are the real dangers to this country in the event of a world war, one or the other of them.
I certainly hold very strongly that, if our desire is to spend money, within the limits of our means, in order to put up the most efficient and effective type of defence machine that we can for the dangers that appear most imminent, then, we have got to get away from the cannon-ball mentality of trying to have something in a little country like this that is going to reproduce in a small way everything that appears in a great Continental army. We are not going to land in any other country. If a force lands in this country, then the war is ended to all intents and purposes. What we have got to avert is the menace of air attack and the possibility of landing from the air and, if we are to spend either less or more money, £9 out of every £10 should be spent on air fighting. As far as one can analyse the figures put before us year after year, and even the figures being put before us at the present moment, it varies from one in ten being devoted to air fighting to the highest of about three in ten.
If planes come either to bomb us or to land troops, infantry, to all intents and purposes, are as helpless as the civilian population. In the past, an infantry army was the ideal army for this country. The army of every country has to be moulded in order to meet the danger that appears to be most imminent. In the past, a past that is happily past, when the most influential political leaders in the country were inciting that kind of aggression against the forces of the State, obviously it was a ground army which had to be kept, but, in recent years, the most imminent menace is the menace from abroad via the air, and the expenditure, such as it was, was on ground artillery, tanks, all the paraphernalia of a great European army, expensive, extravagant and unjustifiable toys in a country circumstanced as this country and because of these expensive and comparatively speaking, worthless luxuries, an air force so tiny that no matter how efficient the officers and men may be, it is to be fairly classed as ineffective.
If a man has a pound and buys a pound's worth there, he cannot then buy a pound's worth here. We had the choice, and we spent our money on an impressive Saint Patrick's Day parade, so that when the danger came, there was little to show, and now we must still continue along the lines of having everything and representing everything that can be found in a great continental army. We are to have that without a navy and without any arrangement, so far as this document shows, with any naval power. What would we think if the Minister for Defence in Switzerland proposed very heavy expenditure, and all his expenditure, on a navy, having no sea-front, good, bad or indifferent and left the country without an army? We would consider that he was rapidly qualifying for certification, and yet the Minister here, in an island country, stands up seriously and demands millions of pounds for what he calls defences in which there is absolutely no provision for as much as a ten pound note for the creation of any naval defences.
We have, of course, made provision for mine-sweepers for sweeping away mines around the coast. One would imagine that in the position we are in and if we are to have the co-operation of no naval power, we would have minelayers rather than mine-sweepers. Whose mines are we going to sweep? Who is likely to lay mines around our coast? Either Britain, Britain's enemy, or both, and more likely both. We are to send out our mine-sweepers and sweep all the mines, presumably indifferent as to which side has laid them. If we do not do that, and if we sweep away only the mines laid by one Power, it will be because there is a close understanding and co-operation between this country and the other Power. But we are not told that. On the contrary, we are told that we stand in a position of magnificent and strong isolation, ready to fight the world within the tune of £5,500,000. One would wonder why the other countries in Europe were not as sensible as the Minister for Defence and why they did not each protect their country for £5,500,000 instead of spending thousands of millions, and, having spent those thousands of millions, looking around the world for allies to protect them. One would be inclined to say what a pity it was, and how foolish it was, that, in Czechoslovakia, they spent hundreds of millions instead of just spending £5,500,000 and declaring themselves neutral. According to the headline set by the Minister, according to what we are expected to swallow, Czechoslovakia would be still intact.
I believe we are living in serious times, that things which are merely spectacular and not safeguards must be cut out and that we must concentrate on the things that are safeguards. The real danger to this country, and, so far as I see, until Great Britain goes under and her navy is swept aside, is attack from the air, and our defence system should have been completely switched and practically all our expenditure voted towards protection and fighting arrangements to meet attack from the air. I believe it is generally conceded that the only really effective way to meet an aeroplane attack is by fighting aeroplanes. If the Minister would bring into this House an Estimate that appeared to be based on meeting the dangers confronting us, and if the bulk of the money was concentrated on providing some kind of adequate defence against the real dangers confronting us, he would find that he is living in a country that would do its utmost to put up the money, no matter how difficult the individual or the nation might find it; but it is unreasonable to come to the country with the unfinished, hedging kind of statement that was made last night, with nothing said where statements should be made and with all kinds of evasions in order to cover up and confuse, and the only clear thing being the demand for money.
The Minister spoke at great length on what he hoped would be done by the civilian population to look after itself, and the plans he proposes to make for the evacuation of children, the aged and infirm, from the cities to homes and institutions in the country, and the elaborate plans that were being made for instructing the population in steps to be taken against gas attack. He spoke at greater length about those things than he did with regard to the fighting forces against air attack. Apparently, the real strength or security of this country is, as I said, its distance from Central Europe and the strength of another navy around our shores. The likelihood of attack from the air is, at least, debatable. I subscribe to the opinion that if there is a world war our cities will not escape attention. I believe that if there is a world war at some point or another bombs will drop in the City of Dublin—not continuously—but at intervals during the course of that war. Even, however, as a believer in that, I do not think for one moment that any planes, or any group of planes, are going to set off from Central Europe and run all the risks of the journey, the distance and everything else concerned, in order to spill gas in this country. Gas was a very effective war weapon as long as it contained the element of surprise. Gas is still an effective war weapon in so far as it forces the other army to don masks—and a soldier in a mask, I suppose, is only half effective—but gas, as against a civilian population, in a short-time raid, since gas masks were devised as a protection, is certainly, to say the least of it, the least formidable form of attack, and if any planes come from distant countries to do damage in this country, it certainly will not be gas that will be dropped. I hold that if all the energy, all the effort, all the expense, and all the drive that is being put into directing and organising the civilian population against the dangers of gas attack were equally distributed —information and so on supplied to the public—to make provision against other forms, and more likely forms, of attack, then, I believe, we would be on more sensible ground.
We told the Minister last week, and we told him clearly, that after eight years we had learned our lesson, and that if the Government required further moneys for defence they should ask for it, but through another mouthpiece. The Minister's reply or observation was to the effect that deficiencies, gaps, et cetera, were found in the defences of other countries. But where deficiencies or gaps were found in any other country—and I am not making any charge against the Minister—some other Minister came over to look for the extra money and to put new hope, new spirit and new confidence in the people; but here in this country, where it was not a case of a gap or a deficiency here or there, but a case of being wide open to any form of attack, we are asked to devote this sum, without any reasons being stated, to entrust it to the same hands, and to devote it, in the greater part, towards spectacular land forces. We are asked to devote a special part of a large sum only towards meeting the obvious danger, and we are asked to put this through. As I have said, the money would be forthcoming without opposition: firstly, if it were going to be handled by an Administration in which there was confidence; and, secondly, if it were going to be spent in the direction of dealing with what appears to be the greatest danger. Without that, the Vote of extra money here is going to be opposed in this Parliament.
I wish to congratulate the Minister and his Department on the steps now being taken to bring our national defence up to the very best standards that are commensurate with the resources of this country. As a member of the Dublin City Council, while I do not pretend to speak in any representative capacity on behalf of that body, at the same time, knowing the members of that body as I do, I feel that I can certainly say that the Minister and his Department may feel absolutely certain that the members of that body will co-operate with him and his Department to the very fullest extent.
Is the Deputy sure?
Yes, I am quite sure. Now, I have listened to the debate here for one particular purpose, and I am intervening in the debate for one particular purpose also, and that is to lodge the most emphatic protest that I am capable of making against the action of the Irish Medical Union in inserting in the British Medical Journal what is tantamount to a boycott of our national forces. In this advertisement, in the current issue of the British Medical Journal, Irish doctors are requested not to join our State forces—that is, not to join the National Army or the Volunteer force. That journal circulates, not only in Ireland, but in England, Scotland and Wales. It has a wide circulation in every country in Europe, and I doubt if there is a country in the world in which a copy of that journal is not available. Now, I sincerely hope, and I express that hope here now, that there is a sufficient number of public-spirited men among the doctors here to make vocal their protest against this behaviour. That is all I have to say with regard to this matter except that I, as an Irish doctor, emphatically protest against this action and hope that the Minister will take very serious note of it in relation to the Army Vote.
Does the Deputy approve of the treatment by the Minister for Defence of doctors in the Army?
Perhaps the Deputy would repeat his question?
Does the Deputy approve of the treatment accorded to doctors in the Army by the Minister for Defence, and of the terms of service planned for them now?
I have every sympathy for the doctors in their claim for better pensions and so on, because, as a doctor, I know the expense that is involved and the amount of time that is taken in training a man to become a doctor, but while I agree that that is so, I object to the shameful manner in which they are going about remedying their difficulties.
I should like at the start to thank the Minister for his courtesy in letting us have a copy of his statement of last evening. I was here when he made his statement, but having a typescript copy was certainly an advantage. We approach the discussion of this Estimate with two recent statements from the Minister—the statement he made last night, to which I have just referred, and the statement he made last Wednesday in reply to the motion moved from these benches.
If I might interrupt, I would remind the House that the matter of the motion of last week was already raised by another Deputy, incidentally, I believe. I should like, however, to draw attention to the established custom of the House, that when an express motion has been decided, the matter is not redebated per se in the same session.
I am not disputing the decision.
The Minister's speech on the motion.
The Minister's concluding speech on that motion was an essential part of the debate and, as Deputy Morrissey knows, the debate should not be repeated.
On a point of order, I do not know anything of the sort. The reopening of a decision of the House is one thing, but surely a Deputy is entitled to refer to a speech made by a Minister upon any Bill or any motion passed or rejected by the House, provided he can relate it to the discussion before the House.
Yes, provided it can be related to the Vote now under discussion.
I made a reference, but I had not time to relate it to anything. We want to discuss the policy of the Minister, and I submit that I am entitled, with your permission, to refer to statements the Minister made any time within the last 12 months.
That is all I intend doing. I think you will admit, Sir, that discussion would be otherwise quite impossible. It would be impossible to gather from this document alone what the policy of the Minister is or whether he has any policy. We have had, as I said, within one week two statements from the Minister and I, as a layman—and I speak merely as a layman—do say this, that if these are statements of policy, if that is the considered view of the Minister and of the Government, then I am absolutely appalled at the mentality brought to bear on our matters of defence. A policy of defence! We have been often promised it; we have been promised it several times. Since Ministers came back from London with their agreement, time and again we were told that we should get such a statement from the Government on the proper occasion, i.e., when the Supplementary Estimate was being introduced. Two opportunities have been given on two matters vitally concerning defence, one an opportunity to discuss the whole policy on the Estimate now before us, and the other an opportunity to discuss at least an important portion of that policy, and that was last Wednesday.
I ask any member of the House or of the public to read the Minister's statement of last Wednesday—I certainly am not going to read it now— and say whether there is any statement of policy, or any defence of a lack of policy, from the Minister; whether even any attempt was made to refute any of the charges made against him and his Department by Deputy O'Higgins. The nearest I have seen to an effort to refute what Deputy O'Higgins stated on last Wednesday and what Deputy Benson stated is the following statement—one sentence; the only sentence I shall quote from the Minister—"The same sort of speech that Deputy O'Higgins made here to-night has been made in practically every country in the world within the last three months, that adequate precautions were not taken and that everything was wrong." Is that a refutation of Deputy O'Higgins's charges? Is the Minister for Defence so ignorant of international affairs that he does not know that practically everything in these charges concerning other countries was proved true? How else can anybody explain the almost unexampled surrender of two big Powers in Europe before the threat of force? I know of no more humiliating surrender in the history of two great Powers than that. What is the explanation? Was it that the charges made, year after year, of lack of preparation for defence—which the Minister can read if he has an interest in these things— were untrue? They were proved true by every statement made in reply to them year after year and they were driven home by what took place last Autumn. We saw two of the greatest Powers in the world accept a 24-hours' ultimatum and what was the explanation? Was it because the charges made against the Ministries responsible for defence were untrue? Deputy O'Higgins's charges were at least as well based as theirs and better based. There is no evidence, and neither last night nor last Wednesday did the Minister give any evidence of any preparation, or of a mentality of even approach to the idea of preparation, or of any policy.
We are asked to vote money without discussion, without criticism, merely because it is proposed, merely because it is expenditure of money. We are not to be allowed to ask whether that expenditure is useful or not. Though the Minister made a carefully considered statement last night, though he had had months to prepare an answer to Deputy O'Higgins's motion, there is no indication that the expenditure he proposes will be of any considerable use so far as the defences of the country are concerned. Here is an elaborate statement. What we wanted was a statement of policy and an indication that the increased expenditure was going to lead to something useful. These two things are completely omitted from the statement. Yet a body of representatives elected by the people must vote that money, must put these burdens on the people, without the slightest effort being made by the Minister to justify them to Parliament or to show that they are useful. That is not the conception that we have of our duty as members of the House. No policy; no external affairs policy, I believe, either. If there is, there is no indication of what the connection between that policy and the policy of defence is. The two things should go together. We have not got any enlightenment from the Minister for External Affairs on the one matter and we are equally bereft of enlightenment so far as the Minister is concerned on the other matter. We had last night the only kind of defence so far—a kind of shadow boxing on the part of the Minister; refusing to mention even the particular countries that might be involved.
I was prepared to accept the view that the Government was at least serious in this matter. I paid some attention—I did not give it its full face value—to the statement of the Taoiseach, that he took the initiative in the recent negotiations with Great Britain, that brought the economic war to an end, primarily on account of his anxiety on the question of defence. That did certainly seem to indicate— if we were to pay any attention to it —a realisation by the Taoiseach that he was perturbed about the question of defence.
We might suppose from the action of the Minister in demanding a Supplementary Vote now, a Supplementary Vote which practically commits us to future large expenditure—I am speaking in comparison with the expenditure we have had up to the present—that the Minister and the Government were serious. Even the act of courtesy which he showed last evening in getting his speech typed for the members of the House might have been held to show that he regarded it as a major occasion. But when we turn from these signs to the actuality of his proposal, what do we find? We find no effort to face this problem as it should be faced. I speak as a layman. And it is one of the privileges we have at these times that we can put here the view of the ordinary intelligent man in the country.
As an indication of the seriousness, or the lack of it if you like, with which this problem is taken, I will ask the House to turn to paragraph 14 of the Minister's statement. We all remember, even the members of the Fianna Fáil Party possibly remember, that there was a world crisis last August and September. Rumours of it reached even this country. A hint or two possibly entered into the Minister's office. At least we can suppose that. What was the reaction? He told us:
"During the year partly owing to the transfer of the forts but mainly owing to the international situation it was decided——"
now is the world made safe for justice and democracy
"——to increase the Army by 17 officers, four cadets and 500 other ranks."
If that would not help to stop the war I do not know what would. That was our contribution for the salvation of civilisation.
There is a portion of the Minister's statement last night in which he made an appeal to the people of this country to take seriously a danger of a certain kind; to take the danger of air attack seriously, and to take the duties of A.R.P. seriously. With this Estimate before the country, with the Minister's own statement, does he really think he is contributing by an Estimate of this kind to increase the seriousness with which the people view this matter? I admit there is altogether too little attention given to matters of this kind by the people. It is one of the criticisms I have of the Government that they have not made the slightest attempt to wake up the people of this country to a sense of the danger. The appointment of a number of instructors and the statement we had last night from the Minister is his contribution towards waking up the people of the country to the importance of this matter. Does he really think that that is sufficient stimulus to the people of this country to take seriously the dangers of aerial warfare and to take the A.R.P. regulations and advice to heart? Nobody has contributed more by negligence than has the Government to the attitude of indifference on the part of the public of which he now complains.
If I might say so, it is a curious thing to introduce an Estimate of this kind without any proper indication of the policy that that Estimate is going to serve. The Minister could have devoted a great portion of this document to giving us enlightenment on these matters—an enlightenment to which we were entitled. The Taoiseach indicated that we should be given a clear indication of what is the defence policy of the Government. Have we got that statement? Notwithstanding the promises, we have not, and having waited long enough for it, we certainly expected it from the Minister last night. The Taoiseach was asked for it last April, but then, and on various occasions since, he fobbed off the request with the reply: "That will come before the country at the proper time, when the Supplementary Estimates are being introduced." I wonder whether there is a single Deputy a bit wiser now than he was last April? In fact, there was a great deal more said on the policy of the Government in the statement of the Taoiseach last April than there is in this document that we got last night.
This document is marked by a deliberate effort not to give the House any statement of policy. It would look as if the Minister banged the door on the attempt to permit any hint of the policy of the Government getting out to the public. I heard the Minister last night in one portion of his statement telling us that we must take the world as it is, and he spoke about "the closest and most exhaustive examination of the subject." I thought then we were going to get something, particularly after the next paragraph, where we were solemnly told that "the world we are living in at the moment is far from a Pacifist Utopia." Well, we did not require the Minister for Defence to come down to the House making that one of his particular gems of wisdom. But that was the sort of thing he put before the House.
There is no reason why the House or even the Government or, even still more, the Minister for Defence should shut their eyes to the realities of the European situation at the present moment. That ostrich policy brings us nowhere. I never knew that the ostrich was a most intelligent bird anyhow. I admit, of course, that this is a preliminary Estimate. The whole idea is based on all the preparations as to what may occur within the next couple of years. Why not face the situation? There was a crisis last September. Does anybody to-day pretend that that crisis is passed? Does anybody, even here, pretend that peace is now firmly based on the settlement of Munich and that there is no further danger? Let us try to envisage what may occur. I suggest it is the business of the Minister to put that before the House and to indicate what preparations he is making against—not hypothetical dangers in 50 or 60 years' time, but against what may occur in the next couple of months or in the next couple of years.
We are in this position at the present moment, and not merely we but every nation in Europe, great or small, that none of us can say whether there will be a war next week, next month or next year. I do not say that there will be; I just emphasise the complete uncertainty on that particular matter. If there is war nobody can say in which direction those that start the war will strike. We are not entitled to assume that they may not strike in our direction, and, therefore, there is a grave problem to be faced—the problem of defence arising for the people who are in this country and who intend to remain in it. In face of that situation, and of the bouleversement that took place last September, the effects of which are only gradually working themselves out, there is no guarantee, there is no reasonable hope, or at least there is no reasonable expectation— because we are bound to hope—that there will be no catastrophe. But we certainly cannot base any expectation to that effect on any reasoned grounds. Shall I put it this way: the Minister made it quite clear last night that if there is a war it is not against Britain we shall find ourselves fighting. If there is a war the person that will attack us will be somebody that is attacking Great Britain.
Now what is the situation as a result of what took place in the last half of last year? You have in Europe to-day a Power ever so much stronger than it was even six months ago. You have a power in Europe that certain European statesmen were hoping would devote its energies as regards expansion, commercial influence and even military adventure towards the East. People hoped that Germany would be satisfied with looking towards the East having got control of Czechoslovakia and its allied States—that she should be satisfied to expand in that direction—over what she calls Carpatho-Ruthenia with her eyes fixed firmly on the East.
Can anyone pretend that that is the position at the present moment? Does the Minister for Defence himself think it is? As far as one can judge, and I admit that one cannot speak with complete certainly in these matters one way or the other—we have to base our judgment as best we can on the evidence at our disposal—I should say that, whereas a view of that kind had a certain amount of justification in the weeks and possibly the months that immediately followed the Munich Agreement, that justification has gradually vanished as the weeks have gone on. At the moment the most likely thing is that Germany has consolidated her position in the East, and that if she had ambitions in that direction she has postponed them: she has made up her mind that for the moment she is in a stronger position than any other power or any group of powers that may be brought immediately to bear against her, and that the best thing she can do is face the strongest enemies first—to enter into an agreement or agreements with various powers in the centre and East of Europe and possibly strike West.
Now, one after another these various States have been brought into that particular sphere of influence. For what purpose? To safeguard the rear of Germany should there be a war between Germany and the Western powers, and there is reason to believe that that is at least—I will not say certain because it would be a tremendous mistake to say anything of the kind—but it is such a reasonable possibility that no sane statesman can leave it out of account. I admit it is one of the strong points of the German Chancellor's position that he can keep the various powers of Europe guessing up to the last moment, and strike where it suits him best. In that way he is in a much stronger position than his potential enemies. But there is the danger, and it is one to which it would be a mistake to shut our eyes, that the war may come in this direction and not leave us alone, and that the expectations and hopes, if I may say so, of certain European statesmen may be falsified, namely, that the next adventure will be towards the East. Events within the last couple of months, diplomatic or otherwise, should make us gravely doubt that the next adventure will be towards the East.
Now the last crisis worked up gradually from the middle of the summer to September, but we have no guarantee if faced with a similar situation that we shall have a warning by crisis so as to put ourselves in some kind of defence. That is the reason why members of this Party, and a large number of the public, were perturbed when they found the state into which the Minister had let the defences of this country drift—when they found that really nothing had been done against the real danger.
The peace of Europe rests on the most insecure foundations that I certainly can remember in my life time, much more insecure, it seems to me, than in 1914. A high price was paid for peace at Munich. Has that saved us? Was there delivery of the goods? I am not at all criticising the people who, in the interests of humanity and of their citizens on that occasion, made peace. But, as I have said, a high price was paid for it. I am not at all sure that the highest price was paid by Czechoslovakia. Her losses and her price are evident, but I am not sure that even a higher price was not paid by other European powers. On that Pact of Munich every act of aggression and every utterance of a spirit of aggression have been based from that day to this. That is the world that we are facing, and facing without any policy whatever of defence. Let us envisage what is likely to occur. As far as anybody can see, if there is going to be a European war within the next couple of years—we are going no further and this Estimate is going no further—if that is going to happen, then it is going to be a war between Germany on the one hand and Great Britain and France on the other. That is the situation that we have to face and there is no reason why the names of the different powers should not be mentioned.
I do not know why the Minister should not say definitely what the danger was. There is a hope of peace, a continued peace for some time—just one hope, namely, that the yielding capacity of France and Great Britain has not as yet reached the limit, that they are again prepared to make great sacrifices for peace, and if even that will not found peace permanently that they will be ready to make even still more sacrifices. There is that hope of peace, but it is daily becoming a more slender hope. From what one can judge, it does not look as if the yielding capacity of Great Britain and France is without limits. I say so far as one can judge. I admit that after the experience of the last six months it would be rash to pin oneself to any particular judgment as being absolutely certain; but so far as one can judge we are reaching that position. There is demand after demand on the one hand, and more and more determination to resist, on the other hand. That is the war in which we may be involved, and that whether we will it or not— our fate is not in our hands.
We are told that it requires a vote of the Oireachtas before we go to war. I am not altogether so simple as to believe that if there is a war between Germany and England we shall get a communication from Germany to enquire whether or not we have passed that vote declaring war. I am afraid that is not what would happen if Great Britain were to go to war. The Taoiseach said last April that neutrality is practically out of the question. That is why I find an extraordinary difficulty in knowing what the policy of the Government is. The Taoiseach last April, in reply to an interruption by Deputy Dillon, gave it as his opinion that neutrality was, as he feared, a practical impossibility. What is the only indication of policy that we have got here to-day? Neutrality. This is what I read from the Taoiseach:
"Mr. Dillon: Did I understand the Prime Minister correctly when I believe him to have said that if we continue to send foodstuffs to Great Britain in time of war it would be folly to pretend that we can maintain our neutrality?
"The Taoiseach: I fear it would be so, in fact. The truth is, of course, that in a modern war there is no neutrality."
And yet it is our policy, or at least it is our slogan, because, as I said, there is no policy.
I recommend members of the Fianna Fáil Party, and even the Minister, to read the relevant passages of that speech. The amazing thing is that they are more relevant than a lot of other statements that we sometimes hear from the Taoiseach. Let the Minister, so as not to overburden himself with too much work, taking him too much away from the cares of the Department of Defence, read Volume 71, No. 3, cols. 426, 427, 428 and 429, the date of the publication is April 29th. Perhaps it is not too much to ask the loyal members of the Fianna Fáil Party to read that. They may get from that some indication of policy such as we have not got from the Minister. And yet last April, and in a subsequent month, the Taoiseach told us to wait for the full statement of policy. There was about four times as much statement of policy made last April by the Taoiseach as there is now made by the Minister for Defence. I wonder what the explanation is? However, there the fact remains. I invite every Deputy to read these four columns of the Taoiseach's statement as to what is likely to happen if there is a world war, and what our position will be. I hope he has made it clear, if not to the nation, at least to the House. It might be well if the Minister for External Affairs was present while this Estimate is being discussed because of the intimate relationship between the position of the Minister for External Affairs and that of the Minister for Defence.
May I ask the Minister if the subject matter before the House is intended for serious discussion and whether the members of his Party and his colleagues are prepared to come into the House to hear the matter discussed and to answer arguments?
We are sitting, to use a very old metaphor, on a volcano. I do not want to pass any harsh criticism, but undoubtedly the destinies of Europe are in the hands of a man who, last September, was prepared to risk a European and a world war for the difference between what he asked and what he got. I defy any man to say what that difference was and show that it was of any great importance. If there is such a war, if it breaks, we are, I presume, determined, whatever happens, that no expeditionary force goes forth from this country? How are we likely to be involved? The Minister was quite right in saying not for our own sakes, but on account of our position. But we may be involved on a slightly different ground from that mentioned by the Minister. We may be involved because we keep up supplying food to Great Britain. Is that a portion of the defence policy? I ask the House to connect the statement by the Minister yesterday with that of the Taoiseach last April. Is it a portion of the policy that we cease to send Great Britain foodstuffs when a war breaks out? The Taoiseach accepts the position that that would practically end our neutrality. What is our policy in that respect?
We are likely to be attacked; but to me, as a layman, the idea of the invasion of this country seems fantastic, absolutely fantastic. I am speaking as a layman when I say that no sane Government would send a body of their men, completely cut off from the main portion of their army, into a country where they can be wiped out by superior forces sent from other places. If Germans land here, other people will land to wipe them out. No sane Government and no sane general would think of that. And, above all, how is it to be done? By beating the British Navy, as Deputy O'Higgins said. If that is done, are we any longer in a position to defend this country during or after the war? May I draw the Minister's attention to a danger that may threaten if Great Britain is defeated? Very soon after the Munich Agreement I listened in and I heard Dr. Goebbels, one of the German Ministers, speaking, and here is what he said:—
"In 1914-1918 we failed to achieve world domination because we had not unity. We have unity now."
I am aware that people say that is all vain talk but, unfortunately, in the last four or five years, and especially in the last 12 months, I have seen that a lot of this talk that was scoffed at by the worldly wise proved too true, and what seemed fanciful boasts fully realised. Everybody said: "Take no notice of that; it is blowing off hot air," but it was borne out by events. It was not they who spoke in what some people would call this highfalutin' style, who were proved wrong; it was the people who paid no attention to them. If Great Britain is defeated, we still are on the map, and not merely to prevent a resurgence of Great Britain for conquest, complete conquest. There is another enemy to be faced in that instance, a potential enemy between whom and the Germans relations are not so friendly at present—the United States. Even from that point of view the possession of this country would be exceedingly important. Does anybody pretend that if the British Navy goes down, if Britain goes down in defeat, that any army we can put up against the German Army could save this country?
It is a good rule if, in certain circumstances, we cannot do anything to assume, if you are going to make any preparation, that something will occur in connection with which you can do something. The defence of this country we know perfectly well does not depend on this Estimate. Its defence depends on a power which nobody apparently dare mention as a repellant of an invader of this country. What is the good of shutting our eyes to that? No country of our size, no matter how valiant the sons of that country may be, could hold out against an unimpeded Germany, unimpeded by a big navy. We could not hold out against an unimpeded German invasion for one fortnight. Let us, therefore, at least realise that, in fact, the main portion of the defence of the country is not going to be carried on by our military forces.
There is another reason, besides those mentioned, why we may be attacked. Much of the food going into Great Britain, one of the belligerents, will have to pass round the south or the north of Ireland. Hence attacks on our ports, attacks on ships coming into our waters, are a highly likely development if they be possible from the military point of view. The difficulty is this: that every couple of months the war is postponed brings us more within striking distance of German aeroplanes. We are not responsible for our position. I often regretted in the past that we were so far removed from European civilisation. For the last couple of years I am rather solaced that we are so far removed from Continental European civilisation, not on account of what it stands for, but on account of certain inconveniences that would hit us more easily if we were closer to that civilisation. We may be attacked on the ground I have just mentioned but, to my mind—again I speak as a layman—the only kind of warfare we have to fear seems to be air attack. There is no serious attempt, as far as I can judge, in these Estimates to deal with that. I believe that with economies in certain branches of the services for which the Minister is responsible, or irresponsible, he could put up as good an air defence as he is going to do with the increased Estimate without incurring a pound extra cost. What I fear is this: the Minister hears there is a crisis, and the Minister says: "We must do something and the only way we can prove that we are doing something is to spend money." It is because, as I say, of the lack of any real policy indicated by the Minister—I might say the proof of the absence of any policy —that we find it impossible to support a Vote of this kind. We do not even know the extent of it. We know from the Press and from the statement of the Minister last night that local authorities are going to foot the bill to some extent.
The Minister gave us no estimate of what this policy will cost the local authorities. He gave us a minimum figure for the expenditure, useless in great part, so far as his own Department was concerned. He did not tell us what amount the local authorities would have to meet or what local authorities would have to meet it. Surely the Minister could have indicated to the House precisely what places he proposes to protect—the places where he expects attack, the places which it would pay an enemy during a war to come over and attack. Some people solace themselves very easily. Why, they ask, should the Germans pass over the whole of England and attack Dublin? For the simple reason that if they bombarded an English city, they might expect a warm reception. In Dublin, they would have, so far, a sitting target. They can fly so high that they could, with comparative ease, avoid the chief cities of England and bombard Dublin without any risk. That is a result of the great care and thought the Minister has given this subject since he took over the Department of Defence.
Nothing effective is proposed. The only thing achieved here is the spending of money. There is no indication that, having spent £5,000,000 and having raised normal expenditure to £2,500,000 or £2,250,000, our defences will be one bit better than they are or than they could be made with the money at present at the disposal of the Minister. That is why any Opposition with a sense of responsibility to the country must oppose this Estimate. Our resources are very limited. We see a neighbouring country spending £1,100,000,000 on armaments in a couple of years. Our resources are so limited that it is necessary that we should make the most of them. What I complain of is that the Minister is not making the most of them. He said that he would much prefer if the money were spent on social services. If this is the way he proposes to spend the money, it would be much better to have spent it on social services and it would be better not to raise the additional sums from the taxpayers at all. For these reasons, I oppose this Vote.
I oppose this Vote as vehemently as I possibly can. While the situation looks serious all over the world, I do not think the Minister or the Government has taken the position at all seriously. There does not seem to be any seriousness as to the defence of the country shown in this Estimate. It seems to be merely a matter of spending money. Look at the Estimate and look at our position in the world. What hope have we of defending the country? We are a small island, with a very big sea-line. No matter what we did, taking advantage of all the resources of the country and taxing the people to the last halfpenny, there would be no hope of putting up what one might call decent defences. In the Minister's Estimate, there does not seem to be any care taken so far as the effective safety of the cities and towns and a few other strategic positions are concerned. The Minister will admit that there are at least a few positions of strategic importance here. We have the air base and the electricity supply scheme. The air base would be a place of great strategic importance if there were a European war. The Minister pretends that this system of defence is put up purely on his own, that the Government are the people who must defend the country. Why should not the Government pluck up courage and tell us what is at the back of their minds and what is inducing them to put up this money for defence? Surely, they are not so childish as to think we can defend this country against a continental power, against America, if you like, or against Japan. Let the Minister tell us who his allies are.
Deputy O'Sullivan said that we would be sending food to England in time of war. I hope so. I should be very glad if we were. In that case, would we be neutral? The only way to be neutral is to look at things as other countries have looked at them and take a chance when your resources do not allow of proper defence. Have no defences except those that are going to be effective, so far as the protection of the people are concerned and so far as the protection of strategic positions is concerned. There is no sense in providing for the defence of this country, as the Minister says, against aggression or invasion by another country. It cannot be done. That is merely bunkum. Until they tell us what is prompting them to spend this money on defence, with the country badly impoverished, nobody will be satisfied with the expenditure. Deputy O'Higgins said that there is very little use in an army of infantry. The only use for an infantry army in this country is for the protection of the civil population against internal trouble. I can see no other use for it. With the coastline we have and with the danger of aeroplanes swooping overhead, an infantry army is of about as much use as mine-sweepers. Expenditure on mine-sweepers is useless unless the Minister is in touch with some other country in co-operation with which he proposes to use these mine-sweepers. If that is the case, he should tell us the country. All I ask him to do is to tell the House the truth. Let him not be blinking the facts or playing up to a certain element. If he does as I say, the House will help him, but I would advise neutrality up to the moment of war as the best line for this country to take unless the Government is in touch with some other country or with allies. If not, neutrality is our best line. We cannot find the money. We have not the money or the resources to build up adequate defences here, and the half building of defences is worse than not attempting defence at all. The Minister's Estimate looks like an attempt at the building of one-tenth part of defences. I believe the Minister is not a fool. I believe that there is something behind this Estimate which the House does not know about. I believe the Minister is in touch with some other Power or Powers He should not leave us groping in the dark or leave us thinking that there is something wrong. He should be honest with the people. I ask him, if he wants this Estimate passed, to tell us the truth and not be "codding" us about defending the country against European powers when our resources are not a thousandth part of theirs. It is all "cod" to suggest that we can defend the country against these Powers. I ask the Minister to tell us the facts and then we may be able to help him.
I have listened with great attention to the statement of the Minister and to the statements from the Opposition Benches. While these statements have caused some confusion in my mind, they have not completely submerged my own rustic commonsense. I cannot agree that this Estimate is necessary and I am prepared to oppose it but not for the same reasons as have been stated by members of the Opposition Party. I am opposing this Estimate because I believe that sufficient money is already being spent on defence. I believe that the amount already provided for national defence should be quite adequate for our needs. I am not impressed by statements made from various parts of the House that this country has no chance of escaping from the effects of a European war or of remaining absolutely neutral. The Minister has been repeatedly challenged to state the policy of the Government in regard to alliances, or to the action which they intend to take in the case of a European war. If I were permitted to give any advice to the Minister I would advise him to make no statement whatever as to what his policy would be in the case of a European war. It has been said that the strongest point in the German Chancellor's policy is that he has been able to keep the world guessing as to what course he is going to adopt. I think that, for a small nation endeavouring to remain neutral, the strongest point in their policy should be to keep the world guessing. I should be very much alarmed if the Minister were to follow the advice given by Deputy Professor O'Sullivan and definitely state that he was making arrangements or had made arrangements for a definite alliance with Great Britain. I think that such a statement on the part of the Minister would completely prevent any possibility of this country being able to remain neutral.
Now, I cannot agree that it is absolutely certain that if Great Britain were engaged in a war with a European power that European power would be so foolish as to attack a small nation which has absolutely nothing to offer. I want to know what military advantage it would be to Germany or any other European power engaged in a war with Great Britain to attack this country? I can see none. It has been suggested that the fact that we might be supplying food to Great Britain would provide a motive. There are many ways in which Germany could prevent us from supplying food to Great Britain without actually attacking us. There are, for example, the various ports through which those foodstuffs would be imported into England, and there is also the shipping between this country and Great Britain which could be attacked. As long as there is a doubt in the minds of the nation engaged in war with Great Britain as to where the sympathies of the Government of this country lie, or what action they might be inclined to take, I believe that that Power engaged in a war with Great Britain would hesitate to attack us. It must be remembered that to attack this nation would, at any rate, strengthen the force of public opinion against Germany in the United States and perhaps in other countries throughout the world, and for that reason they might be slow to attack this country. I think, therefore, that the Government would be wise to cling very strongly to the hope that it would be possible for this country to remain neutral.
Again, we have been told that there is no use in preparing or even attempting to defend this country against an invasion; that the moment an invasion of this country takes place the war is practically ended, because an invasion could not take place until the British Navy has been wiped out of existence. Therefore, it would seem that there is not very much need for increasing the expenditure upon our land force in this country. There would, on the contrary, seem to be room for a certain amount of economy in regard to our land force. The Government has been censured because it was claimed they had not sufficient ammunition to last for two minutes. According to the statements we have heard, the use of ammunition for even two minutes would be sheer waste of ammunition, so there does not seem to be any case for strengthening the land force in this country. On the contrary, as I have said, there is a case for reducing it. If it is necessary to make some arrangements in regard to defence against air attack, such arrangements or such defences could be made out of moneys saved on economies in regard to the land force. That is my contention. I do not think there is any need whatever for increasing expenditure on defence, particularly, having regard to the economic condition of the country. It is proposed, I think, to spend about £5,000,000 on defence. Would not that £5,000,000 be more usefully expended upon putting this country in a sound economic position, instead of allowing ourselves to be intimidated by what is described in Great Britain as the jitter-bug? I do not think the Minister should allow himself to be frightened into spending such an enormous amount of money, even by the eloquence of Deputy Dr. O'Higgins. I think if Deputy O'Higgins had directed his eloquence against the Minister for Agriculture, and compelled him to spend £5,000,000 on putting the agricultural industry into a better position, he would have been doing more useful work.
He would not have been in order, of course.
Possibly he might not.
The Deputy should try it now, and see what happens.
At any rate, I think the first step towards putting this country in a sound position in regard to defence is to build up a healthy population here, and you cannot do that while the main industry of the country is collapsing. I think there is no need whatever for further expenditure in regard to defence, and there is certainly no need or no justification for compelling the local authorities to contribute towards national defence. It can hardly be claimed, by any stretch of imagination, that the defence of this country is a purely local matter which should be financed out of local rates. I think the Minister should take that into consideration. He should face up to this as a national question, and above all I would in conclusion remind him that as far as our policy in regard to a European war is concerned, he should keep the world guessing.
I must confess that I am rather surprised at the attitude of the House towards this Estimate; I am referring to the attendance in the House. We are asked here to endorse something that is going to cost this country millions of pounds, a very substantial capital sum of about £5,000,000, and to commit ourselves to something which is going to mean an increase of at least 100 per cent. in the annual Estimate for the Army. I cannot help remembering that recently in this House when there was a Bill before us which was going to commit the country to something like a paltry £25,000 a year, we had a very full attendance in the House, and very eloquent speeches. We were told how heavily these bills of £25,000 a year were going to lean on the harassed taxpayers, but when we are dealing with a matter that calls for millions of pounds extra from the taxpayers, apparently, there is very little interest aroused. I am astonished also that, so far as we can see up to this, the Labour Party, apparently, have no mind on this problem. I expected that one of the earliest speakers in the debate would be some member from the Front Bench of the Labour Party.
On every occasion when we ask for additional money for social services here, or to provide for the unemployed, we have been met with the reply from the Front Benches opposite: "Where are we to get the money? If we try to find the money you are demanding it can be found in one way only, and that is by taxing the necessities of the poor." Are we to take it that the money now asked for is to be found by taxing the necessities of the poor? Are we to take it that this enormous sum is to be raised in such a way as to increase still further the very high cost of living? The Minister gave no information on that question. Unlike many speakers who took part in the debate, I did not expect the Minister for Defence to make public everything he has in mind, or that is in the minds of his advisers. Probably it would not be good policy to do so. But there is a vast difference between making everything public, not only to the House, and the country, but to the world, and saying nothing at all. If there is one conclusion to be drawn from the Minister's statement, and from the Estimate, it is this, that there is the closest possible contact and co-operation between the Department of Defence in this country and the British Defence Department. If there is one thing clear from the Estimate, it is this, that it was framed, the sub-heads drawn, and the various amounts allocated to each sub-head, after full consultation with the British Defence Department. The Minister has, apparently, arrived at certain conclusions with the people on the other side of the water, as to how "the common defence," to use again the words of the Taoiseach, "of this country is to be provided." If that is so—and I believe that every Deputy believes it, why should the Minister be afraid to say so?
I freely confess that I know nothing whatever about what preparations are necessary to meet any of those attacks which may be made in a modern war but, to use the words of the last speaker, and speaking from rustic commonsense, I say that unless we disbelieve everything we have heard urged for the last two years, and particularly for the last six months, the major portion of any money allocated for the defence of this country in war must be to meet air attacks. I can only come to the conclusion that the Minister is satisfied that the British will provide naval protection, and whatever fighting planes are necessary to repel any invading air force coming here. It is a pity that we could not get fuller information. I want to say that I realise the Minister may be justified in refusing to give in public full information on this question. If we had, as they have in other countries, a normal Government, composed of normal men, there would be, on matters of major national importance such as this, co-operation and consultation between Parties, and especially on matters that are far and away above Party politics. Deputies of all Parties or, at least the leaders of all Parties, would be taken into the confidence of the Government. What is the position here? The Minister comes before the House with an Estimate and gives no information, but he expects the House blindly to vote so many millions of money. To say the least of it, that is a most unreasonable demand, particularly at a time when this country cannot afford any further taxation. Knowing no more about military, naval or air force matters than the ordinary man in the street, I do not know if our declaration of armed neutrality is going to be any use, but if we are to have any regard for recent world happenings, I can only come to the conclusion that neutrality on the part of a country like this, armed or unarmed, is of very little use. It seems to me, if we are going to rely upon neutrality, that that neutrality is as likely to be recognised by another country at war— probably more likely—without the expenditure of £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 as by the expenditure of that amount of money.
I do not believe for one moment that the expenditure of what is, for this country, a vast sum, would make very much impression. I think it would make very little impression indeed upon any country that intended to attack this country. I do not think that any country is going to be influenced in the slightest in its decision as to whether it would be good policy or not to attack this country by the voting of this amount of money and I doubt if the Minister or his advisers think so either.
It seems to me that we are asked to vote this amount of money because an understanding has been arrived at between our Department of Defence and the Defence Departments of Great Britain, that this is to be our share towards—again in the words of the Taoiseach—the common defence of these islands. If that is so, why not tell us so? If that is so, the people are entitled to know it and you are not entitled to ask either this House or this country to give you £5,000,000 plus an additional £1,500,000 per year and refuse to give them any information, refuse to say to them why the amount of money is required, not only refuse, but refuse in the manner which, unfortunately, the Minister almost invariably choses to adopt in this House.
I hope that the House will not agree to call upon the people of the country to pay this great sum of money. For once, I find myself in agreement with Deputy Cogan that if the people of this country can afford to pay that additional sum in taxation, then it can be spent in a much more useful way than by spending it in the manner and in the way set out in the Estimate which is now before us.
A Chinn Comhairle, I listened very attentively last night to the Minister when he was introducing his debate and he struck me very forcibly as a man who had a full grasp of the details of his Department. He struck me as a man who knew exactly what he needed. Nevertheless, I am forced to criticise him, not so much for asking for a certain sum of money here as the fact that he is not asking for a sufficient sum of money. The Estimate strikes me as one prepared as if we were living in normal times. Who in this House is going to say that the times we are living in at the moment are normal? Is there any Deputy in the House so absent-minded as to forget the two or three crises we have passed through? Can they visualise or remember how quickly Hitler marched his army from Berlin into Vienna or how quickly Mussolini took possession of Abyssinia, what the situation is in Spain at the moment and what the situation is between Japan and China. When one visualises those things, and when it seems to be the attitude of the Opposition that we are living in normal times, then I am wondering if the Parliamentary system serves any useful purpose at all.
I have listened to the speeches from the Opposition. Every one of them seemed to advocate an increased defence force and yet, after making a speech in favour of an increased defence force, they tell the House they are going to vote against the Estimate. Very well; if they are going to vote against the Estimate they are casting down the judgement of the leaders of the Army who have consulted with the Minister for Defence and who put forward the plea that they need the sum of money asked for to provide adequate defence for the country. In other words, they are taking upon themselves to act the soldier and the general and pitching the Army to Jericho.
I would not rise at all in this debate but I feel very seriously on it and I would ask the House, when they are discussing it, not to discuss this Estimate the same as they would a Local Government Estimate, an Estimate for Agriculture or an Estimate for Social Services. After all, when you come to discuss an Estimate for Agriculture or an Estimate for Social Services, surely local policy on internal matters will decide exactly what figure you need for those services. But, when you come to discuss defence, you have got to face up to the international situation and, if the world at large is in a troubled condition, and we are placed as the guardians of the people here, it looks terribly odd that we will not face up to realities, that we must play the part of professional politicians and say: "Here goes an Estimate on which we can score against the Government and let our policy be dictated according to the way we can score." I feel very sad for the last two or three hours sitting here in this House listening to the speeches delivered by the Opposition. I had a certain amount of hope that Dr. O'Higgins would realise the full gravity of the situation. He admitted openly and frankly that the Army was inadequate. He said we should have millions of pounds for the Army and, after delivering a speech in favour of an increased Army, particularly an increased Air Force, he sat down and said: "I am going to vote against this Estimate."
I would like to point out one or two rather important things or one or two possibilities. England has always dreaded an invasion. From 1800 to 1810 the bogey-man was Napoleon. I have read many biographies and autobiographies dealing with that particular period, and Napoleon happened to be their worst enemy. To-day, England dreads an invasion. She does not dread an invasion to the same extent as she did three or four years ago because she has provided a certain amount of protection along her own shores. I want you to watch one thing. While she provided that protection along her own shores, she claimed jurisdiction over the Six Counties. Has she provided the same protection in the Six Counties as she has along her own shores? I suggest to you very strongly that she has not. I suggest to you that there is every possibility and every likelihood that, if a Continental power said, "We will invade Ireland or we will invade England," England would do everything and manoeuvre everything to make Ireland the cock-pit of a European battle.
Supposing we were faced with a crisis, such as we have had in the last six or seven months, and we were asked to dictate our policy, there would be one of three courses open to us. There would be the course open to us to side with the particular power; there would be the course open to us to side with England; there would be the course open to us to adopt a policy of neutrality; there would be the course open to us to provide, or, at least, to sell, our agricultural produce, possibly to England, or to some market. I suggest to you that, whatever course you adopt, the Army we have at the present time is not sufficient, that the Army is so small, though quite good in personnel and fairly well equipped, that it does not command the respect, on account of numbers, of even backward small nations. I suggest strongly in this House that we take the matter seriously and that we cut out politics and remember that we have been appointed as a Government and that we have been elected to look after the people and to act as their guardian.
I would also refer to another possibility. Supposing a crisis arose and that we had, say, 60,000 men well armed and equipped and that 60,000 men were composed of regulars, reserves and volunteers, do you think for one moment that, if a crisis arose and war broke out and England was involved, that she could afford to ignore our plea that she should return the Six Countries to us? Would she not be seeking our co-operation and would not that be the time then to talk to England, and talk to her with a strong Army and justice on your side?
I do not wish to say anything more on the matter. I would not speak at all on the subject were it not for the fact that I do not think the House is taking the subject of defence as seriously as they should. I had a certain amount of hope when I heard Dr. O'Higgins, but he says he will vote against the Estimate because he disagrees with the policy put forward by the Minister. I would make one plea —if there was some hope of an agreement on the Army policy would he favour, say, the raising of a loan of £10,000,000 to put our forces in at least a condition that would command the respect of even a small nation?
Several comments have been made from this side of the House on the fact that the Minister's statement yesterday contained practically no declaration of a defence policy. I regret that particularly, as I was hoping that he would in that statement have given some indication to the general public as to what his policy was on the subject of air raid precautions. As I said the other might, I feel that the public should be informed as early and as fully as possible as to what the Department's policy is. The Minister mentioned in his statement that it was proposed shortly to introduce legislation regarding the matter and particularly with regard to the part which the local authorities will have to play. I ask the Minister to consider very seriously before he does introduce that legislation the vexed question of payment. At the moment I understand the general idea is that for certain expenditure the Exchequer will take full responsibility, and that certain other expenditure will be on a 50-50 basis. I suggest that the Minister should consider whether the whole expenditure should not come out of the Exchequer.
My reason for suggesting that are first, that it is a matter which concerns the whole country. In his statement yesterday, the Minister mentioned that these measures would be applied to certain areas only, without indicating what those areas would be. I think he is perfectly right in that but, at the same time, when it is limited to those areas, it is in fact a matter of the defence of the whole country, and I think that the whole country should pay and not only these particular areas. Secondly, I think the matter would be more efficiently carried out, if carried out from a central headquarters, by the Government rather than by individual local authorities. In that connection, it is interesting to note that, in London, the A.R.P. wardens have recently been transferred from the local authorities to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police who is now in supreme charge of them. The third reason I advance is that, on the whole, from what knowledge I have, members of local authorities are not enthusiastic for any measure of A.R.P. The statement that Deputy Dr. Hannigan made to the contrary merely indicates that he did not attend the meetings at which these matters were discussed. There , I think, amongst many people in this country—and the Minister agreed with me in this the other night —a feeling that it is unnecessary to do anything, and I think that if the matter is left to a local authority, a percentage or, possibly, a majority of the members of which have that feeling, it will not be efficiently handled. I ask the Minister to consider whether it would not be better that the whole matter should be kept in the hands of the central authority. I admit that many of the services in connection with A.R.P., such as fire-fighting, decontamination and so on, will have to be carried out through the local authorities because they are purely local matters, but the general direction would, I think, be better carried out centrally.
The Minister also mentioned the question of shelters in the statement he read to us yesterday. I should like to know if the Minister has yet formed any opinion on the very much debated question of deep shelters or surface shelters. My own view is that, for this country, at all events, the deep shelter would be unnecessarily expensive and that adequate protection can probably be provided by the surface type. The tests carried out recently on that type have shown them to be very much more efficient than most of the critics considered they were.
There is also the question of volunteers who will be required for these various services. Anybody who has studied the position in Great Britain during the last year or so will realise that there has been a good deal of muddled thinking there. We are coming in late on the job and we have the advantage of the experience gained there. I should like to know whether there is any suggestion of indicating to the public before volunteers are asked for as to what occupations will not be expected to volunteer. The position was somewhat the reverse in Great Britain. There volunteers were called for and after a certain number had been secured a list was published and only quite recently of reserved occupations. I suggest that a list of reserved occupations should be published first and volunteers asked for afterwards, otherwise there will be, I think, a tendency amongst people to hold back, not knowing whether they can do better service to the country by volunteering or by remaining free and able to carry on their own ordinary duties.
The Minister also dealt with the question of evacuation, and mentioned that it might be necessary to erect hutments in connection with existing buildings. By hutments, I take it he means wooden huts. I do not know whether we are to infer from that that he considers the present state of tension comparatively temporary, or whether any steps that are taken now should be of a permanent nature and that, in fact, it will be a permanent part of the life of any nation to have provision for defence against aerial attack. Unfortunately, I am afraid the latter is the truer aspect. If that is agreed, I suggest that these camps should not be of the wooden hutment variety, but something more permanent. That, I believe, is now the proposal in Great Britain, where it is intended to erect permanent camps which are to be run by a non-profit-making corporation. The camps normally will be available as holiday camps, for school children to go out into the country and that type of thing. We have, by recent legislation here, a large number of people who are getting holidays now who had not previously got holidays, and if these camps could be used for that purpose, some return on the money laid out in constructing them would be received annually which would possibly pay at least for their maintenance.
Another question which is of some importance is the question of the anti-aircraft guns. I should like to know whether it is proposed that these shall be of the mobile type or whether it is intended to erect some in permanent positions. It is possibly not a matter on which the Minister would be anxious to make any declaration, but, if they are to be of a permanent type, I should like to know whether they will be close to the populated areas or kept at a reasonable distance, as I believe there is a certain amount of risk from falling portions of the shells, except in the case of the latest pom-pom type of gun, which disperses completely.
I do not wish to pose as a naval or military expert, and therefore I suppose I have to confine my criticism to some of the minor details of the scheme, in the hope that the Government have made the best possible disposal of the funds they are proposing to spend. I think it is evident to most people that any attack on this country, probably, is going to come from hostile aircraft. From that point of view, I think the expenditure on anti-aircraft guns is a wise one. I understand that there is a tremendous difference when an attacking aircraft force feel that they are going to be met by anti-aircraft defence, and when they realise that they will meet with practically no defence at all. I have heard of cases in China where hostile aeroplanes can come down till they can practically see the people in the streets, but I understand that if anti-aircraft guns are available a very different situation takes place, and the hostile aircraft must keep at a height which renders the city concerned, I shall not say, immune from attack, but at any rate they are confined to aiming at a particular target, which is a very different proposition.
Now, to get down to some of the details in connection with the Government's scheme, the Minister, as well as I remember, told us last night that he was training certain people to act as instructors for A.R.P. He mentioned people from the Board of Works and from the Corporation, and I think he said that there were 40 people from ordinary firms. I understand that those classes are now closed because they are supposed to be full up, and that there will not be any vacancy in them for a couple of months. Well, if we are going to train people for instructing the public at the rate of 40 every couple of months, it will be many years before the knowledge which the Government wish to get around to the general public can be got around. Of course, there are probably some people in this country who do not care at all about this matter or who do not take much interest in what is being done by way of air raid precautions. Others, however, are keenly alive to the situation and are only anxious to get a lead from the Government. That is why I would suggest to the Minister that one of the very best ways in which he could get this air raid knowledge across to the public would be to train as many instructors as he could get to come forward.
I entirely agree with the idea that a list of reserved services should be published first. For instance, it would be a farce if we were to find that the 40 people trained from certain firms were all in reserved occupations. I merely put that point in order to show how important it is that that aspect of the question should be considered. I do not know what the practical difficulties are, but I would like to suggest to the Minister that a very much larger number of instructors for A.R.P. should be taken in immediately and trained. There is another point on which I would like to touch. The Minister mentioned—and I think everybody will agree with him—that there are certain areas in this country that would be regarded as being in a much more dangerous situation than others. I think he mentioned—he can correct me if I am wrong—that from those areas, young people, children attending school, and the aged and infirm, would be evacuated on the outbreak of hostilities. Now, the Minister may have some diffidence in stating in the House what those areas are and in specifying them, but the information must be let out eventually and I would ask the Minister to ensure that, at the earliest possible moment, that information should be communicated through whatever channels the Government think most suitable to get it out, because it must be remembered that once the Government can get the public to help them and help themselves, the task of the Government will be the lighter. Naturally, some areas might be doubtful, but if certain areas are dangerous, the sooner the people know that they are in a dangerous area and that certain precautions have to be taken on the outbreak of hostilities, the sooner will the people begin to think along the lines on which the Government would like them to think.
The next question one would like to ask is: When will the details with regard to air raid shelters be published? I see that, on the other side, no new houses are to be built without air raid shelters being provided. Are the Government going to bring that point in over here? Of course, I am afraid that, at the rate we are providing new houses here, it will be a long time before air raid shelters in new houses can have any effect on the problem. At the same time, I think there is very considerable unemployment in the building industry and I believe that a very great number of air raid shelters could be undertaken. In that connection, I take it that there will be some households in various parts of the country in which no air raid shelter is contemplated, but then you come to ordinary houses in areas where, I presume, the Government will probably make it obligatory for air raid shelters to be provided. Are the Government going to specify that, for the number of inhabitants in any house, a certain percentage should be added to those so as to try to provide for the stranger who is within the house or who happens to be in the vicinity when an air raid takes place? Then, you come to denser places, such as the City of Dublin. I do not suppose I am letting out any military secrets when I suggest that that is one of the places where an acute problem arises. Are the business firms supposed to provide shelters for their employees? Are they supposed to train and equip fire-fighting units for their own premises, and are fire-fighting units supposed to be kept on the premises during the night? If there is an air raid, are these units supposed to patrol the premises or the streets?
That brings one to another question. Are any air raid shelters going to be provided for the general public? If they are going to be provided, surely there should be co-ordination so that the Corporation public shelters or the public shelters in the City of Dublin provided by the Government and the shelters in business premises could be linked up. One of the great dangers, I understand, is that people may have the entrance to their shelter blown in and they may be entombed. The bigger those air raid shelters can be made and the more they can be made to communicate with each other and link up with public shelters the better. I suggest to the Minister that somebody should at once begin to think of the problem of the denser areas along those lines.
Another point has been very much in the minds of the people on the other side. Is there going to be any insurance of private houses or business premises against the damage done by air raids? I do not know if the Government have thought of that. But certainly if damage is done in this country it will fall very unequally. A person who gets hit by a bomb or whose business premises are hit will be out of business, while the people who do not get hit by a bomb or whose premises are not blown up will still be in business. I suggest that for a Government that wants equality of sacrifice that is a very undesirable position, and that they might look into the matter and see whether any scheme of insurance could be made out for the country as a whole.
That brings one to this fact—that we seem to be getting back to the days when tribes fought with each other and the tribe that won finished up the other tribe. For many centuries the system has prevailed that a more or less professional army went out to fight, and when that was beaten the country surrendered. Now we have got to a position which, I think, may be summed up by what was said on the other side, that although everyone may not be in the firing line, everyone will be in the line of fire. That being so, I think it falls upon everybody to take the keenest interest in air raid precautions. I think a large number of the people in this country are keenly interested and would like a lead from the Government. I should like to point out to the Government that it is they who are lagging behind. Though these problems must have been settled satisfactorily in other countries, I do not suggest that the Government should just take schemes cut-and-dried from other countries, but that they are in a position to look at what the Government in this country and that country has done, and should take the course that is best suited to the needs of our country. In any case, considering that probably a few hours after the outbreak of hostilities very considerable damage might be done in this city and in this country, we cannot too soon get a lead from the Government as to what the general public are expected to do in different areas and different walks of life.
I shall vote against this policy of defence proposed for this country. I believe the Government's demand should be rejected, because this is nothing more than a pure waste of money. I do not think that we should get into this imperial panic which we see all over Europe at present. There is not the slightest need for it. I believe that, instead of spending this money on this so-called defence, if we spent it on providing the means for our agricultural community to produce more healthy food for our people and other people who may need it we would be doing good work. Everybody knows that we cannot as a small, weak, and impoverished nation defend this country against attack. We know that we are only 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 of poor, impoverished people and that any nation in Europe that likes to attack us can attack us. If Germany wants to land here, she will land here. If Great Britain determines to land here, she will land here. There is no question about it. Why should we put our young men against these mighty nations in order to get them wiped out in a few hours? If Germany or England wants to make this country a cockpit for their battles, must we annihilate our nation to suit these imperial conquerors? Our position should be one of strict neutrality. Whether we be the cockpit for England or Germany makes no difference—we can do nothing. We should take the definite line that we are unable to fight, that we do not want to fight, although we will of course defend our country against aggression.
If you go on with this imperial defence, which I am satisfied is dictated from England and from nowhere else, what are you going to have in a few months, or a few years' time? Are you satisfied that the young men of this country are going to lie idly by while they see this conniving going on? I am satisfied they will not. I am satisfied that the youth will rise up as they rose up in every generation and that they will demand that England's difficulties will be Ireland's opportunity. I do not state that to be my policy, but I say this much, that at the present moment our country is partitioned, and it is partitioned by an imperial Power —Great Britain. She held this country for 700 years against our wishes. She can to-day give us back our six lost countries if she wants to. I say that now is our time to demand from Great Britain that she return to us our Six Countries. If she does not give them back why should we go on with this imperial defence, this nonsense, this waste of public money? I would say to the Taoiseach: Realise that you are treading upon dangerous ground; that you are slipping down the slippery slope, and well you know it. But before you go too far, take a step back; take the firm step that now is our time to demand the freedom of our country. There is no reason why we should not have that freedom. Why should England hold us in subjection still? She huggermuggers with you; she sent over envoys to talk to you, and she called you to London. But up to this time we have never heard her say: "I think it is time that we handed over to you full powers over the 32 Countries." She did not say it; she will not say it. Still you come along and demand in a sneaking way that this country shall line up with Great Britain and fight the might of Europe. I am not one of those people who stand for dictatorships in Europe, but I am one of those who wish to see something done for our own people——
I think the Deputy had better come back and deal with the Supplementary Estimate. What the Deputy is speaking about has nothing whatever to do with the Supplementary Estimate.
Well, Sir, Deputies who have spoken before me on this Estimate talked on the same lines as I am talking.
while I have been in the Chair.
Deputy Giles is speaking on high policy.
And I submit I should be permitted to go on, especially when this Vote deals with millions of pounds of money that could be spent better in improving the position of agriculturists in the country.
The Deputy can develop on Army policy if he wishes.
It has been said and admitted that all the nations of Europe are trembling on the brink of war. It is only natural that such nations should spend sums of money on munitions, but there is no earthly reason why we here should go in for these things at all. All we have to defend ourselves against is internal aggression, and I warn Ministers that we will have internal aggression if this policy of theirs is persisted in. That is what we will have if we continue spending millions of pounds on armaments, aeroplanes, air bases and a huge standing Army of 30,000 men. How can our country with the resources at its disposal stand all that expenditure? It certainly cannot and the country will sooner or later be faced with revolts and attempted revolts if we continue this Army policy. The money it is proposed to spend under this Vote could, if spent on proper lines, give our people a chance of living in comfort in their own homes.
In the last 20 years our people have been fighting wars of one kind or another. They have been fighting a military war or an economic war. These wars have crushed the people down. What they want now is perfect peace and this nation should to-day be at peace with every Christian country in the world. That is the line we should take. We should definitely state to the world that we will have nothing to do with any European war. Then if other people want to fight and even to make this country a cockpit for Europe we cannot help them.
We have been told that our Army is very efficient and that it can put up a good show. I am fully satisfied that the standing Army is efficient and that it will put up a good show. But I am not at all satisfied with what we have done in the last five or six years with regard to what is called the sluagh, or the "slugs," as some people name them. I am not satisfied that we have in them an asset for the defence of the country. I know the type that has joined up. I am sorry to say that the majority of them are nothing more than the dregs of the old British militiamen. If the Government of this country want a genuine service it could have looked for that genuine service in the type of people who joined up in the old Republican Army. They did not look to that type. Had the Government looked to the farmers' sons and to the decent labourers of the country they would have got the service the country needs. How many of that type are joining the sluagh to-day? None of them. One is ashamed to think that most of those who are joining to-day join up for nothing more than to get a good pair of boots, a good trousers and coat. When they go home they are cutting turf in the bogs with the boots and the clothes they have been given when in the sluagh. They are able to get away with that. These are the type of men who, we are told, are going to defy the world. I do not think so. The Government when recruiting these men did not look for men who would give genuine national service. They do not want genuine national service. The Government are only doing what their old friends across in England were doing here for a long time—enrolling the dregs of the young men into the militia. If any Government in this country wants to look for men who will give good service, the sort of men who gave service before when the country needed it, they will have to look to the farmers' sons and to the workers of the country for the class they need. The Government could spend money in getting them; the majority of them would be attracted more by the service they would be able to give the country than by the money. I can tell the Government that if the country is in danger these men will again rally to the cause and free service will be given. They have none of that type in the sluagh. One will find in every town in the country that the men who have joined that unit of the Army are but props of the present Fianna Fáil Party. They are men who are out to get what they can and they are getting that and getting away with it.
I do believe that at the present moment the Taoiseach and his Party are heading, and heading fast, for danger. It is sad to think on his present attitude after all we heard about the great Taoiseach from his supporters; we heard that he was a man with a noble soul, and that he was going to be the saviour of his country. Let him now prove it. He has every opportunity of telling England: "The time has come now; we have waited for 20 years. We accepted the Treaty under duress. We have waited all these long years to get the Six Counties back." If the Government took up that attitude they would need no Public Safety Acts. This country is ready to do the patriotic thing. I am sorry to say, however, that there are lots of people ready to do the other thing if we do not do the right thing here, and that is to make a final effort to unite our people into a united free nation. We want to make a final effort for the same purpose as that for which Patrick Pearse, Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith and Kevin O'Higgins lived and died, a free, sovereign, Thirty-Two Counties all-Ireland. When we have that declaration of a free united Ireland we can then call it what we like.
I really do not know how the country stands at the present moment. Things have become so rotten that an old Republican soldier like me must speak up and speak firmly. I know that on the benches opposite there are colleagues who fought side by side with me in the past. I know that these men are not satisfied with the policy carried out by the present Fianna Fáil Government. I am perfectly satisfied of that. I warn the Government that this policy will bring us where all futile policies in the past tended to bring us. It will bring us to the heels of England in the next war. In the past it used to be a case of "Johnnie, I hardly knew you," but now it is a case of "Johnnie, we cannot live without you."
In God's name, let us do something for our country and let us not bother about other countries. Let us unite and build up a prosperous countryside and prosperous farmers' homes. Let us work so that we can bring the farming population back from the bankruptcy and despair into which they have been driven. These people to-day see their sons and daughters fleeing to any country that will take them, sooner than live in misery at home in their own land. Let us devote these large sums of money to placing our own people on the land. Let us not worry about shelters for Dublin. Let the majority of the Dublin people be taken away from Dublin and sent back to happy homes in the country. We have heard a great deal about saving the people of Dublin from air raids. What are you saving in Dublin? A whole horde of wealthy men who have come from all parts of the world to enjoy what should be for the use and support of the Irish people themselves. You are asked to save Grafton Street, O'Connell Street and Dame Street. You are asked to save the property and the homes of foreign Jews. We are asked to put up shelters for these men when we should be asked to build shelters for our own cattle which will help to bring prosperity to our country and to our own people.
I wish we had a Hitler for the defence of Ireland. I wish that the Taoiseach would consider that the time was ripe for us to get back our six counties. If he decided to take action on that line every true genuine Irishman would be prepared to support him in the demand for the return of the Six Counties.
The Deputy may not open the question of the Six Counties on this Estimate.
I think that the money that we are being asked to vote here could be spent in a more useful way by trying to get back the Six Counties. I do not think I have any more to say. If I continued on this I might say too much. I ask the House, in God's name, to reject the proposal to expend such a large sum of public money for the purpose named. We are asked to agree to this expenditure by the Minister for Defence who, at one time, thought that he was a super-Irishman. To-day he is nothing more than Britain's tool for the coming European war, engineered by the financiers and Jews of the world. We were England's tools for 700 years. If we are going to be her tool in the coming war, then I say the devil mend us.
I think that the country this morning received a very rude awakening when it read in the Press of the proposal of the Government not merely to increase expenditure on the Army for the coming year, but to provide for a still more substantial increase in the ordinary Army expenditure next year. Then we had the declaration from the Minister for Defence that a sum of £5,500,000 is going to be spent, by way of capital expenditure, in the form of armaments. What the House and the country have got to consider is, for what purpose is the country being committed to that colossal expenditure. We will be told, of course, that it is necessary to spend that huge sum of money for defence purposes, but surely we are entitled to ask in this debate: against whom are we defending the country? What do we fear in respect of an invasion or attack? Whom do we fear, and why do we fear them—a person or a Power?
These are questions which have not been answered in the statement made by the Minister last night. A statement on defence at the present moment must surely involve some review and some declaration by the Government as to where it stands in the tangled international field which is arrayed before us to-day. We have had from the Government no indication whatever as to its relationship with the alignment of Powers and forces in Europe. We have had no declaration from the Government as to whether it believes it to be possible to reconstruct the League of Nations in such a manner as to give hope that it may be possible to settle their disputes without resort to the arbitrament of force which is now so fashionable. We have had no indication from the Government as to what its international peace policy is, or as to what efforts it has made, or is making, to endeavour to persuade the European Powers to take that course as a means of settling our present day differences.
There is one thing that we ought to be told, and one thing that the country ought to know arising out of this debate: it is whether we regard ourselves or whether the Government regards itself as in any way linked to Great Britain for defence purposes. This defence expenditure here is proceeding concurrently with very heavy defence expenditure in Britain, and the same feverishness which is characterising defence preparations in Great Britain is apparently going to characterise our defence preparations here. Is that a coincidence merely, or part of a very definite policy and a very definite arrangement between the British Government and our Government here? We were told in July last, and the country was told, that a very substantial saving had been effected for the country when we stopped the export to Britain of £5,500,000 in the form of land annuities and other disputed payments. But the £5,500,000 which we saved on the land annuities are going to be spent——
Per year. The sum of £5,500,000 for this year is going to be spent in this manner. But once you embark upon an armaments race, and once you want to try and line up to provide protection for yourself against gigantic European military Powers, there is no limit to the amount of money that you can spend on purposes of that kind. I wonder whether the Government, when it considers the necessity for incurring expenditure on this gigantic scale, has given any adequate consideration either to the complications which are likely to ensue to our position in Europe, or whether it has made any real effort to emphasise the strength of the separateness of our international standing. Have we, for instance, told the European powers that when the King, as King of Australia and Great Britain, declares war involving these countries in a war, that his declarations as King in respect of these countries do not, in fact, involve us even though he happens to be the organ of our external relations.
It is in the Constitution.
It is in the Constitution, the Taoiseach says. Anybody who has ever been to Geneva knows perfectly well that when the European powers meet at Geneva they see what they describe as the British Commonwealth group, and for years and years they have been taught to imagine, by clever British diplomacy, that that is one group and that it stands as a group.
The Deputy has not been at Geneva or he would know that that is not true as far as we are concerned.
The Deputy knows this, and the Taoiseach knows it, that every time the British Government subscribes to a declaration at Geneva providing for a settlement of disputes between nations they insist on inserting what they describe as the inter se clause.
They do not, and we have never accepted it.
Does the Taoiseach know that that is the tradition of British policy at Geneva?
It is not true, and the Deputy is altogether on the wrong track.
Nor was it the policy of the Government's predecessors. They signed the optional clause.
The Taoiseach knows, whether he cares to admit it or not, and everybody knows who had to fight the British there, that they objected to the registration of the Treaty at Geneva. Their whole policy at Geneva has been to try to get the European Powers to look on as a single group what they describe as the Commonwealth. Of course, we had a classic example of their outlook in that respect when they refused to allow an international tribunal to adjudicate on the financial dispute with Britain in 1932. The whole outlook of the British has been to try to get the world to look on us as part of the British group of nations. I do not think that our Government here is taking sufficient steps to correct that serious misrepresentation of our position. I had an example of it in September last. An Irish registered ship leaving the Port of Dublin, but flying the red ensign, was being staffed by Irish seamen. The Secretary of the Seamen's Union, anxious for the safety of the men in the event of there being a war in Europe at the time of the CzechoSlovakian crisis, communicated with the Department of External Affairs, acquainted the Department of the fact that the ship was sailing to Germany and said:
"If this ship is docked in Hamburg and if war breaks out between Germany and Britain, are those seamen entitled to regard themselves as neutrals?"
If there was a Norwegian on the vessel, if the vessel docked at Hamburg and if Germany was at war with Britain, the Norwegian would be repatriated and treated as a neutral and sent back to his own country. But the Department of External Affairs could not tell the Irish seaman whether, in fact, the German Government accepted the position that he had as much independence, and was as much a neutral, as a Norwegian. There is obviously need to have a position of that kind clarified.
We passed in this House a few years ago a Citizenship and Nationality Act which conferred separate Irish citizenship on our people. Shortly after that we had a declaration from the British in which they said that "notwithstanding the passing of that Act, we regard a person born there as having a dual citizenship," and they contend that a person on whom we confer Irish nationality through the medium of that Act still has British citizenship. Have we taken any care whatever to explain to European powers that that person is an Irish citizen, and have we done anything in the way of asking European powers to accept the position that he is an Irish and not a British citizen and he is not an enemy and not liable to internment if any European power happens to be at war with Britain? It seems to me that beyond its mere passage, that Act has been allowed to become a dead letter, and, so far as one can see or learn, no effort has been made by the Government to ensure that its existence has been brought before the notice of other European powers. No effort has been made to extract from them an assurance that they recognise our separate position here and that they do not judge our people merely as British citizens.
In this whole discussion the thing that has been strikingly evident has been the absence of any information as to the possible source of attack upon this country. We are told that we must defend ourselves, as if you can build up an adequate scheme of defence without knowing from what direction our enemy is likely to come. There are some people in Britain who take the view that Britain's eastern frontier is on the Rhine, and Britain's western frontier is the west coast of Ireland. Britain has assiduously circulated and disseminated propaganda of that kind, all for the purpose of creating a European impression that that is her sphere of influence, that that is her preserve, and that she expects from that wide area an alignment of forces in the event of war. We should make it clear to the whole world that Britain's frontier is not the west coast of Ireland. We should make it clear that Britain's frontier, as far as this country is concerned, ends in Britain, and that Britain is not entitled to regard this country as her range of attack or the sphere from which she would be entitled to expect assistance. There can be no adequate or rational defence plan so long as we do not indicate from what source we expect the attack and so long as we fail to make up our minds as to the powers we have got to fear in the event of a European war.
But a still greater consideration arises in any advertence to defence problems here, and that is the question of our ability to provide money for defence. In this Estimate and in the speech delivered in support of it we have an indication that a staggering financial burden is involved in the defence proposals which are now before us. Approximately £9,000,000 will be utilised to finance last night's speech. That £9,000,000 will be used mainly for armaments. I asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce last week to provide improved rates of benefit for unemployed citizens who have to maintain themselves and their wives and children on a miserable pittance of 14/- a week. We were told they could not get any more, that that was the maximum the country could afford. A week after that display of niggardliness in regard to an important social service we get a Bill for approximately £9,000,000 in respect of defence proposals. There is no money to assist the unemployed or to increase pensions of 1/- to 5/- given to widows who are expected to live on such miserable pittances, but there can be substantial sums voted for a defence policy of this kind which apparently has not been thought out, has not been planned or takes cognisance of the complications of our position in relation to Europe or of the sources from which we might be likely to expect attack.
One of the matters which must inevitably push itself into the forefront of the consideration of defence proposals is the particularly difficult position of an island country. When we come to discuss defence matters here we must inevitably survey the entire range of defence problems which present themselves. We are a small country of 3,000,000 people and we have thrown up before us the problem of defence by air, by sea, by land, the provision for such things as the evacuation of people from dangerous areas, the erection of bomb proof shelters, the provision of gas masks, the avoidance of the contamination of food by gas, the defence of strategic points, the defence of ports, and the provision of hospitals and schools for evacuated people. That is the problem which to-day is confronting a small community of 3,000,000 people. When we are discussing defence we ought to ask ourselves whether it is possible for a country of our slender resources and our small population to meet expenditure of that kind. Let us remember we are not fearing attack and have no reason to fear attack from a small European Power. If any attack comes, it is going to be from some mighty European Power. We might ask ourselves then whether the expenditure of £8,000,000 or £9,000,000, a small matter in respect to armament, but approximately 25 per cent. of our entire tax revenue for one year, is going to provide us with any scrap of security against the possibility of attack by a well-armed and powerful European nation.
Is there any security to be gained by the expenditure of £5,000,000 or £10,000,000? Could we provide sufficient security out of our slender resources if we had to meet the might of any European power? It seems to be futile to imagine that with our resources and our small population we could ever essay the task of building up defences which would be likely to withstand attack from a power much better equipped than we are. This House might vote £5,000,000 if they thought that such a vote was a passport to security against attack, but I do not believe, even if we spent £55,000,000, that there is going to be any security against potential attack. There is certainly no security against attack in the spending of £5,000,000. We might spend the whole £5,000,000 and another £10,000,000 with it and even then we will be approximately in the same position as we are now. If you ask a man to go from here to London with a penny he has as much chance of getting there with the penny as he has if you gave him 10/-, because the 10/- will not take him any more than the penny will. That is what I fear the situation is going to be even when we spend this colossal sum of money.
As I said before, one of the most dangerous ingredients of this scheme and this expenditure is the possibility of creating in the mind of European powers that it is part of a scheme to line up with Britain for defence purposes. There ought not to be a line-up with Britain for defence purposes. Britain is our only invader. Her troops occupy portion of this country to-day and none of our money should be spent in protecting her western frontier while her troops occupy portion of this country. Britain has interests in all corners of the world, interests which she has shown a willingness to defend by force of arms to-day when some of these interests are being assailed, when her title to them is being challenged, and it behoves us not to involve ourselves in any entangling commitments with her. To-day Britain is prepared to defend her colonies, some of which she got during the last war. We ought to make sure that our defence scheme is not going to involve us in a European or other war in defence of British colonial interests. I concede, of course, that with the war lords in Eastern Europe firmly in the saddle, it may be necessary to make provision for the defence of the civilian population but there is no security for this country in arms. There is no security in imagining that we can build up here a military machine capable of meeting the European military machine. It is one thing to give protection to our people against a possibility of that kind. It is another thing to launch out on an extensive defence programme involving the expenditure of very large sums of money which this country is not capable at present of providing. The money has to be raised in the manner in which taxation generally is raised. I think that there is no security along that line. I think reliance on that line will be found to be just a cemetery for the hopes of people who imagine that they can find security in that way.
I think it would be a much better line for us to utilise our unique position here in Europe, and in other countries to which millions of our people have gone, to proclaim throughout the world our neutrality, our determination not to be involved in war and to make a declaration that we have no designs of any kind on the territory of any other nation. Over and above that, we ought to do what we do not appear to have done, to emphasise our separateness and our distinctiveness, to iterate and reiterate the fact that such measures as we take are not part of the British defence scheme, that we are not lined up and linked with Britain for defence purposes, that we have no entangling alliances with her and no commitments to her. I think there is more hope in laying emphasis on that fact than there is in assuming that a small country like this can ever put into the field a military machine capable of ensuring adequate protection for the people against the possibility of a military attack. I think, therefore, that this Estimate, which will impose such a heavy burden on the people, a burden which, even when borne, will still not give them security or adequate protection, is one that should be reconsidered by the Government because I think there is more likelihood of beneficial results flowing from emphasising our neutrality and proclaiming our determination to live in peace with everybody, than there is in resorting to expenditure of this kind, having regard to the type of possible attack which we might meet from any European Power.
If the Taoiseach does not wish to intervene at this stage, I cannot help thinking that he must listen with some bitter feelings to the speech which Deputy Norton has just made, because if the Taoiseach were sitting in the place where I now sit, and my leader were in his position, I venture to say that the speech which the Taoiseach would make would be exactly similar to that which Deputy Norton has just made and that it would give great satisfaction to his supporters. The speech wherewith the Minister for Defence introduced this Estimate was really entirely in the air because the problem of defence divorced from foreign policy is purely academic. We cannot make up our minds what the requirements of a defence policy are if we do not know what our foreign policy is going to be. It has been suggested by the Leader of the Labour Party that Ireland is constrained to concur in every international act of Great Britain as a result of Ireland's membership of the Commonwealth, and the Leader of the Labour Party instanced the record of Ireland at the League of Nations. There could not be a more unfortunate instance chosen because, in fact, when the optional clause was signed at Geneva the greatest possible pressure was brought to bear upon the Irish delegation, which I think was then led by Deputy McGilligan, to sign the optional clause with reservations, as did the other States members of the Commonwealth, and our delegation under Deputy McGilligan's leadership categorically refused to do so and signed the optional clause without reservations.
Might I interrupt the Deputy for a moment? I am not suggesting that we acquiesced in the British proposals. The point I made is that the British have always tried to get European Powers to think of the Commonwealth as a group. The fact that they used the greatest possible pressure on Deputy McGilligan to sign the optional clause with reservations is the clearest possible proof of what I said. I do not suggest for a moment that they succeeded in their efforts. No matter what Government was in power here, our Ministers protested against that conception of our position.
I am glad to hear the Leader of the Labour Party amplify his earlier observations. It is something very necessary to keep in mind. We, who may claim a part in building up the Commonwealth of Nations, have made ample provision for the absolute sovereignty and independence of every State in the Commonwealth. It is, of course, understandable that another State should seek to create in the public mind the general impression that she has certain allies. France tries to persuade the world that England is her inalienable ally. I have no doubt that Great Britain would desire to create the impression in the world that all the States-Members of the Commonwealth are indissolubly bound to her, but that in no way reflects upon our freedom to make any decision in international affairs we think in the best interests of the Irish people. It has been canvassed elsewhere as to whether a declaration of war by the King of England or by the King, in his capacity as King of Canada or any of the other States-Members of the Commonwealth, would constitute a declaration of war on the part of Ireland. We say it would not, quite clearly, and we say, "Show us anything that makes it do that and we will withdraw it." We say that the law of the constitution of the Commonwealth and the law of the constitution of Ireland clearly lays down that nobody can declare war on behalf of the Irish people except the King on the advice of the Ministers of Ireland. If anything exists which any international lawyer can point to in contradiction of that, the sovereign Parliament of this independent nation will alter that thing.
It may be that theorists will go on wrangling indefinitely to prove that black is white. You cannot stop them but you can say to any responsible man "Show us any word or comma or punctuation that provides adequate grounds for that belief and we will withdraw it." The only reason we do not proceed to change anything now is that we are satisfied that the position is that no human creature can declare war on behalf of the Irish people except the King on the advice of the Irish Ministers. That is the present constitutional position and anything necessary to be done in the future to confirm and clarify that will be done with the common consent of all Parties in the House. But this is what Ministers and Deputies often forget: the probability of Ireland declaring war upon anybody is very remote but what about somebody else declaring war on Ireland? There is no use explaining our constitutional independence to any other country if the other party declares war upon us. It does not matter what form they employ, whether they address the ultimatum to the King or to President Hyde. It does not matter whether they send an ultimatum at all or not, if they arrive, bombard our ports and invade our territory. What does the form of the declaration of war matter? Under the threat of war, these constitutional niceties lose all their interest for me, because they are absolutely of no importance. We are not going to declare war on anybody, but the danger is that somebody will declare war on us. In times of peace, when these nice constitutional questions constitute the hall-marks of sovereignty, we have got to be on our guard and assert and defend them lest, by abandoning them, we might abandon some essential constitutional element of our sovereign independence. But they are quite irrelevant on the question of whether we are going to get involved in a war or not. You may be certain that you will always find somebody prepared to argue both sides of the case and, if it suits somebody to take the side of the case that holds against us on this constitutional issue, they will accept that side and invade us. On the other hand, if it suits them to take our view of the constitutional position, they may attack Great Britain and say "We have no quarrel with Ireland because the constitutional position is that she is not at war." But to lay the soothing unction to your soul that that is going to make any effective difference is pure absurdity. We assert, as a constitutional fact, that the declaring of war on behalf of Ireland is a matter absolutely reserved to the King, acting on the advice of his Irish Ministers. That is what in fact will happen. Under the Constitution, a resolution of the Oireachtas is required. In effect, the only way war can be declared by us is by an ultimatum delivered in the name of the King on the advice of his Ministers. If that, by some constitutional lacuna, is not effective at present, let the person who asserts that point out where it is not effective and we will correct it by legislation of this sovereign assembly. There is no other power capable of legislating for this country.
It appears to me to be clear that the prime objective of any defence policy must be to preserve the independence and sovereignty of Ireland. That is our prime business. We may be interested—very deeply interested —in the fates of other countries, but no matter how deeply interested we may be our interest in other countries is secondary to our interest in the preservation of the sovereignty and independence of our own. We have got to ask ourselves, therefore, at once, on what things does the independence of Ireland depend? Different men will take different views. I take the view that the independence and sovereignty of this country—I am leaving out of the question internal matters like national unity; I am looking at the question purely from the international point of view—ultimately depends on this country's membership of the Commonwealth of Nations. If the Commonwealth of Nations lapsed or was destroyed the independence and sovereignty of this country would not survive three weeks. We should be annexed by one power or another which would share in the destruction of the Commonwealth for such advantages as the naval bases and the air accommodation this country can offer. We are in the astonishing position of a very poor, very small and very sparsely populated country which enjoys its sovereignty and its independence against all comers at the present time. Is there any other nation in the world, not to mind Europe, which can say as much? Austria, an independent State, disappeared overnight. Czechoslovakia, a powerful independent State, with great defences, a great army, great equipment and a correspondingly low standard of living for its people in order to build up its military strength, disappeared overnight and all that defence money was wasted. Ireland, with no defences, no money and practically no population, is issuing ultimata from Leinster House to all and sundry that she will not touch anybody with a 40-foot pole and that she is prepared for all comers. To what is that due? Is it not due to the certainty in the mind of any potential antagonist that an attack upon us would be an attack upon the entire Commonwealth of Nations? There was an element of doubt about Czechoslovakia and Austria. Everybody thought that an attack on Czechoslovakia would be an attack upon France, but there was an element of doubt about it. Everybody believed that the alliance must hold, but there was an element of doubt about it. Gambling on that element of doubt, Czechoslovakia was gobbled up overnight by the enemies of France and there was not a word about it. Is there any element of doubt in the mind of any statesman to-day that the invasion of Ireland would be a declaration of war on the Commonwealth of Nations? Does Deputy Norton seriously suggest to this House that it would be an advantage to Ireland to fix the world with notice that we would regard an invasion of any other part of the Commonwealth of Nations as of no interest to Ireland, and that correspondingly we do not expect the Commonwealth of Nations to take any interest in an invasion of Ireland? Does the Leader of the Labour Party think that that would purchase us peace?
The Deputy does not know apparently that there is an invasion on at the moment?
An invasion that we will put an end to in our own good time.
An invasion by another member of the Commonwealth.
Thank God it is not an invasion of the kind which Czechoslovakia had to face. It is an invasion which we can look forward reasonably to bringing to an end in due time, and which I have every confidence we can put an end to in due time, and it is quite irrelevant to the international considerations we are now facing. I appeal to the Leader of the Labour Party, who I am quite sure holds his views in perfect good faith, to recognise the immense significance and importance of the matters we are now discussing, and the immense responsibility which falls upon him in regard to the advice he gives to the people. The purchase of the sovereignty and independence of this country was a long, weary business. It was bought with blood and lives and years of misery. It is in our keeping, and if we thought to play political ducks and drakes with it in this country we might lose it and if we lost it in our generation we would be despised for all time. We have got our liberty and independence now. Those who went before us got it, and our job is to hold it and safeguard it. I have not the slightest doubt that we may legitimately differ amongst ourselves as to how best to do it, but let us not allow any political consideration to induce us to advise the people ill lest great injury might permanently accrue to the country as a result of the advice we give. I want to say quite deliberately, and speaking personally and individually, something that may shock some of my friends about me. I believe the vital interest of every member of the Commonwealth at the present time is to keep Great Britain a great power. I want to elaborate that a little. Great Britain was at one time one of the most bloody and predatory nations in the world, and it would have been the wish in those times of our people in our country to do anything we could to destroy her, because she was a poisonous scourge in the world, and as predatory a robber as ever masqueraded as a nation, but that was the Great Britain, the England, of 100, 200 or 300 years ago.
She has changed now? Has she?
Let us face facts. Look at the world to-day. Judge it by every standard. Travel the world as the Deputy has travelled, and as I have travelled, and judge for yourselves as you go through the Commonwealth of Nations, which was at one time an Empire in bonds to England, and which is now a group of great, sovereign, independent States, living their own lives, running their own country, and absolutely independent of Great Britain. Now, there are certain Deputies amongst us who have experience of meeting the statesmen from those States members of the Commonwealth; of realising how much independence means to them; how little they are inclined to be said and led by Westminster; how little they look back to Westminster in any sense for guidance, and how bitterly they would resent any suggestion of dictation. What is the use of closing our eyes to that change? I have often said—I have said it in London; I have said it in Sydney; I have said it in Canada—
"Do not talk of the British Empire to me. It is a bloody and beastly institution."
I had the privilege of saying that at a meeting in London which was attended by most of the Cabinet Ministers of Great Britain, and by members of the British House of Commons. I have said:
"We in Ireland have nothing but recollections of loathing of the British Empire, and there is no use in getting sentimental about it in our presence. It means nothing to us."
I am afraid a lot of sentiment is being spoken just now.
I do not want sentiment. I have said there:
"The Commonwealth of Nations is quite a different proposition. We had a hand in creating that, and, so long as it subsists on the basis of equality and sovereign independence for each State a member of it, it has attractions for Ireland, because it is in conformity with Ireland's idea of decent international life."
That is a group of sovereign independent States, small or large, living together in equality, without interfering with one another, but co-operating in so far as they can for the common good of all their people. If we could extend that Commonwealth to include all the nations of the world—and who knows but we may be able to—would not the world be a much happier place? Do not let us subscribe to the deception of our people into the belief that the Constitution we now have is the same as the rotten British Empire, which our parents fought to destroy. We did destroy it. We fought it with arms in our hands up to the time when we saw that the fight could be better carried on at the conference table, and the leaders of the Irish people at the conference table with the British Imperialists smashed the British Empire, and put in its place, something entirely different.
Nobody has learned that more than the Ministers of the present Government. I think they came into office believing that we were still under an imperial system, and the Taoiseach himself said in this House that he was obliged to confess much astonishment at the progress which had been made and the changes which had been wrought. We find ourselves to-day with all the power here in this Assembly to write and enact a Constitution drafted and prepared in the Taoiseach's wording as if Great Britain were 1,000,000 miles away. Is not that a change? Could Ireland have done that in the days of England's imperial glory, or in the days of England's imperial desires? Could Czechoslovakia do it? Could the Balkan States do it to-day? Do not Deputies know that a Minister of one of the Balkan countries, who was reported to have made some critical remark about the Prime Minister of a great Power in Europe, when he went home had to resign and get out of the Government because that great Power would not tolerate his remaining a member of the Government of what was called an independent State? Our Vice-President—and remember I am not jibing— could use on a public platform language of the most provocative nature to Great Britain. Suppose Great Britain sent this Government notice that Mr. O'Kelly must resign from the Government, is there any Party in this House which would not combine categorically to reject such representations? We would be astonished if anyone suggested that we should receive them patiently. Surely that is an amazing position for a small country like Ireland to have. Here we are with no limit to our power, no limit to our freedom, no limit to our independence, with the authority to do anything that we think well for our own benefit, in a Europe in which no small nation feels its independence secure for an hour. Do Deputies not realise what an astonishing position that is? Do they not realise how immensely important it is for those of us who are living here, that that position should be preserved? I think the Government we have got here is a rotten Government, but I recognise gladly the fact that we have the right to come to Parliament and to tell them so. I do not often pay a compliment to the Taoiseach, but I freely acknowledge, and glory in it before the world, that we have liberty in this country and freedom of speech. We have become so accustomed to that and grown up with it that some of my fellow-countrymen have begun to disregard it and to undervalue it. They do not know the treasures they have got.
Are we not entitled to them?
Of course, we are. Are not the people of Europe entitled to them? Look at their position. Just imagine being in Sudetanland, and being dragged off to an internment camp and saying: "Are we not entitled to liberty?" The person who said that would be told that he was, but the subsequent weeks in the internment camp would be different.
That is what is responsible for some of the dictatorships.
I doubt if the Deputy realises that he has the privilege of making the remarks he has made by the common sacrifices of his countrymen and mine in the past.
Very well, then, the job is to keep these things.
That is what we are doing.
Preserve them. They are falling all over Europe and are collapsing in States which believed that they were sovereign independent republics. They have not collapsed here, and those who might wish to invade this country do not dare to invade it, because they know that if they did dare to invade it, as Austria was invaded, and as Czechoslovakia. was invaded, before many weeks had passed they would be faced with the danger of being invaded from elsewhere. I think the Deputy should silently reflect on this question: "Why is not this country in danger of invasion?" The answer is as clear as crystal. They know that the invasion of Ireland would mean an invasion of the Commonwealth of Nations, and that the whole power of that great combination of free and independent nations would be arrayed against them.
There is nothing here to invade for.
I do not know about that. There are the ports, the naval bases, Rhynana as a Transatlantic air station, and there are certain tactical considerations which make Ireland as valuable to certain Continental countries as Guam is to the United States. I do not know if the Deputy has ever been on an island in the Southern Pacific to which the United States of America attaches great importance. I was there, and there is nothing on it but one coconut palm. The United States regard that island as one of its most important bases in mid-Pacific. Poor and all as we are, we have more than one coconut palm here. I have no doubt the Taoiseach knows the island to which I refer. I had the privilege of visiting it on one occasion, and I must say I was glad to get out of it as quickly as I could. I say that the vital interest of members of the Commonwealth is to keep England great. That will shake some consciences. Our vital interest is to keep England great so long as England behaves herself. So long as the conduct of Great Britain in the world is of a character which commends itself to us it is our job to keep her great, in the firm knowledge that if she embarks upon a foreign policy that is antipathetic to our conception of national probity, what we can do we will do to upset her. Mind you, our powers for upsetting her are not as small as they look, because they do not begin and do not end in Upper Merrion Street.
For instance, from one end of the world to the other, Ireland's friendship is not confined to this island. It is a valuable asset for any great State to have, scattered as it is in the four quarters of the earth. Surely that gives us a valuable position of influence for the preservation, in the world in which we live, of the conditions that we approve, and of bringing pressure to bear upon great powers like Great Britain, to pursue a foreign policy which coincides with our conception of what is decent international conduct. Surely, so long as she is pursuing that course, if we have any international intelligence at all, we ought to say to her: "So long as you keep on right lines, you can depend on us, but, if you go off the right lines, and start a rampage that we do not like, and that we think is an outrage on liberty and decency in the world, then you can depend on having the other thing, but if we see, coram populi, that you are on the right lines, we will do what we can to keep you a great Power.” How can we effectively say, if she goes off the right lines, “we will do what we can to tip her off?” Do not let us underestimate our own power. I do not want to blow up Ireland or pretend we are a great military power. We are not, and never will be, but it is equally a great error to sneer at Ireland and her power. Ireland is the greatest spiritual power in the world. Those of us who have travelled the world—and I have travelled a good bit—must have noted with amazement Ireland's power. No matter to what corner of the earth one goes, a few Irishmen will be found there, and on the 17th March these Irishmen will come together, either in fur coats or in linen knickers and little else, according to the climate where they find themselves, and each of these little gatherings forms a nucleus that is pro-British or anti-British, pro-German or anti-German, pro-French or anti-French. They are gathered together and functioning in thousands of places and no country is so great that it can ignore them, and no astute Foreign Office ever leaves it out of their calculations. All I am asking is that we should use that power, use it to the glory of this country rather than use it irresponsibly and without any thought of the great fundamental issues at stake. And I want to use it in saying to Great Britain and to any other country, “So long as you are on the right lines, Ireland is behind you, and, if you go off the right lines, not the little island in the West Atlantic is against you but the greatest and most ubiquitous spiritual empire in the world is arrayed against you.”
Why did she not think of that long ago?
Why did she not——?
Why did not England think of that long ago?
And what, in the name of God, do you think ever made her make peace with this country but that? Was it not that very power that carried us through centuries of battle? Does anybody imagine that it was the few men and women in this country that overthrew the might of England and smashed the elements in England that would have kept the Imperial spirit alive? Certainly not.
You are not forgetting all the sacrifices that were made?
I am not, but it was that, combined with the power of the Irish all over the world, that made it possible for us to go into the Empire and smash the Empire and put in its stead something that is decent, something that is good and something that is helping to make the world a better place. We ought to tell the world that, so long as it continues to do that, we will help her, but if it should depart from that we will fight in the future as we fought in the past and with the same weapon.
Can we defend ourselves against a modern war machine with physical force? I do not think we can. I do not think there is enough money in this country, if you realised everything, to provide equipment for an Irish Army to resist invasion by the modern war machines of Europe. If they once reach our coast, any question of physical resistance does not arise. There is no use sending out gallant men to be butchered in heaps without the equipment necessary to meet the attack that they are sent to counter, and I do not believe that this Government would be wise in making the pretence of doing it. The military experts of other countries are not fools. They know perfectly well what our resources are or what they could ever be and they know that flesh and blood, no matter how gallant, cannot stand against steel and powder, if there is enough of it. So that, I say, quite definitely, I do not think it is within the power of this country to put up physical resistance to invasion by a great war machine from Europe, wherever it comes from. Should we, therefore, try to equip ourselves to that end? I do not think so. I do not think it is possible and I do not think there is any sense in imposing immense sacrifices on the community in a futile endeavour to achieve the impossible.
I think our defence must be to say to any nation that attempts the invasion of this country: "You may get in, but if you do, you are starting for yourself 700 years' war and a war that is going to be carried on all over the world against you. It is true that you may introduce Draconian laws. It is true that, for decades and for half centuries, you may beat down all resistance, but it will bob up again and, if you ever hope to hold us, you ought to have the intelligence to learn the lesson of England who, right beside us, within rifle shot of us, could not do it, and she had us in a much weaker position than you will ever have us. If you care to take the risk, we cannot stop you but, from the day you land, the fight begins and goes on to the day you clear out again." That is going to be very little consolation to the men and women sitting in this House because we would be all dead and buried before the fight begins. They would put us all in concentration camps and trample on us, and it is our grand-children's grand-children who will carry on. It may not deter an invader who desires for the passing moment to invade this country from invading us, but it is all we can say, bearing in mind that we always have in reserve the invaluable safeguard of the additional warning that, in addition to starting a 700 years' war in Ireland, invasion of Ireland to-day starts a war to-morrow morning with the Commonwealth of Nations of which we are a member. That is our real safeguard for to-day. That is the safeguard of the men and women sitting here. That is the safeguard of the people of this country, those living on the land and all up and down this country, from oppression and terror and horror. The ultimate safeguard of the Irish nation is its own passionate resolve to survive.
We have got to ask ourselves have we cleared our minds on this question; should we prepare, in certain contingencies, to despatch an expeditionary force abroad. I do not think we should. I do not think Great Britain herself knows. I do not believe that we have the resources or the ability to send an effective expeditionary force out of this country, even if we wanted to. I can conceive a situation arising in which we might want to. I can conceive great fundamental values which mean everything to us being at stake upon a foreign battlefield and our feeling it to be our duty to go and lend a hand, but we simply have not got the resources to equip such a force to go and, unless it went equipped, it would be more of a nuisance than a help. It would be a liability rather than a help. Therefore, I think we should quite philosophically say that the thing is not physically possible, and what is not physically possible we will waste no money in trying to do. Therefore, we decide that the question of sending an equipped expeditionary force abroad is out of the question and in no circumstances will we do it, simply because we cannot. Even though an occasion might arise when we would wish to be in the fray, feeling that the issues at stake were sufficiently clearly defined to demand that Ireland should take a part in defending whatever ideals were attacked, we simply cannot do it because we have not got the resources to equip the force that we would like to send.
Can we, however, make of our armed force an effective instrument? I think we can. I think we have in embryo a splendid army, and I think we could build up something here which, if we were concerned in a common cause, might help in securing victory for the side in which we believed. I believe we ought to develop the Air Force, and I believe we could on those lines. I think the matter falls into two parts. One is the actual equipment of aeroplanes. Once you have got an aeroplane industry producing on mass production lines the actual aeroplanes required do not, I submit, constitute the chief problem. Until you have got the aeroplane industry on mass production lines, getting the physical aeroplanes is an immense difficulty, but, once you have got that organised, then they run off the assembly line like Ford cars. No matter how quickly you get the aeroplanes off the assembly line, they are no good if you have no pilots to fly them. It does seem that we could build up a very effective and valuable force in this country, to be used either in the defence of our own coast or in the defence of our own shipping, or, conceivably, in assisting forces which we believed were defending an ideal, such as our Faith, on another battlefield, if we had here a large number of highly-trained pilots and an air army such as we could afford to maintain. I do believe that in that sphere we could make some effort at competing with the great military powers of the world. I do not, by any means, suggest that we could effectively compete with them, but I do believe that we might make a contribution to a combination of forces against a would-be tyrant which might just tip the balance and secure victory for the ideals in which we believed, as against the atheistic doctrines masquerading as tyrannies in different countries in Europe from the right and from the left.
I wonder how many of the Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party, when they are voting for an Estimate of this kind, which includes approximately £1,000,000 for war-like supplies and stores, ever ask themselves where the stores are going to come from. Where are you going to spend the £1,000,000? Where are you going to buy the shells and ammunition? If you are not going to buy them in Great Britain, where are you going to buy them? Suppose you do not buy them in Great Britain, suppose you buy them in America, and if war comes upon us, and we proceed to use the war-like stores, how long is £1,000,000 worth of war-like stores going to provide our Army with ammunition? About three weeks. What are you going to do then? Get out the pikes? Do any of the Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party ask themselves that question? Do they know that our Army is equipped with Bren guns? Do they know where the Bren guns are coming from? From Great Britain. Where else can armaments be effectively got? Do any Deputies ask themselves that question? It requires metals to make armaments. Where are we going to get them, if not from Great Britain? Are we going to bring them into this country from America in face of the British Fleet? What does the armaments appropriation mean? Does it not pre-suppose continued good relations with Great Britain? And, of course, such a presupposition is perfectly right. We have no reason to apprehend at present that any strained relations should arise between Great Britain and ourselves. It is conceivable that they might, but no intelligent forecaster in foreign politics could envisage such a probability. Do Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party ever open their eyes to that, because if they do not, they ought to?
Deputy Norton says that we should make it clear to all and sundry that the boundaries of Great Britain so far as this country is concerned end on the eastern shore of the English Channel. What is the use of delivering manifestos of that kind? It is so odd. Earl Baldwin, lately Prime Minister of Great Britain, got up in the British House of Commons and dramatically declared that the frontiers of England were on the Rhine. Was the French Republic thrown into a state of alarm as Deputy Norton is? Not at all. The citizens came out into the streets and sang "Glory, Alleluia! At last the independence and freedom of France are guaranteed. Earl Baldwin, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, has declared that "Britain's frontier is on the Rhine"; but, by heavens, if he declared that Britain's frontier was on the Shannon, Deputy Norton would have a fit. Far from welcoming an alliance with one of the most powerful military Powers in the world, this country is squaring off to her and saying: "Dare you ally yourself with us. How dare you suggest it?" France, one of the greatest Powers in Europe, is continually on her back-door saying. "Now, ma'am, we know you are a good friend of ours, but it would help greatly if you would come out in the street and say so." Do Deputies ever think of that or the implications of that?
We are friends of England, if she leaves us alone.
You could not state my views better. Why do we not say so? So long as England behaves herself, we strongly approve of her.
Behaviour is a matter of opinion, of course.
Precisely, and we can keep her guessing and the more we keep her guessing the better because the more she asks herself: "What will Ireland think of this?" before any move she makes, the better it is for us and the greater influence we will have. But, as a matter of fact, it does not matter two fiddle-de-dees what we make clear to foreign nations as to where Great Britain's boundaries end on the West, because foreign nations will make up their minds about it themselves, and if it suits them to base their attack on Great Britain from Ireland, they will do so. I wonder how many Deputies realise that certain powers in Europe have contemplated an attack on Great Britain from Ireland? Do Deputies realise that certain parties in Europe actually made plans for an attack on Great Britain from a base in Ireland? It might do certain Deputies good to reflect on those potentialities. I can assure Deputy Hickey, the Lord Mayor of Cork, that his protestations and Deputy Norton's protestations as to the boundaries of England are going to have very little effect on those plans.
Would it surprise Deputies to know when they talk of our obligation to tell the world how little we are interested in foreign affairs, that at the present moment in this country, there are embryo organisations ready to take over Ireland for the dictatorships, both of the Right and the Left, embryo organisations representing both interests which are quite ready to co-operate with Powers in the world on the Right and on the Left to take advantage of any disturbance in Ireland for the purpose of using it as an excuse to establish a dictatorship of the Right or the Left here as a part of the international plan? Is it any assistance to Ireland, or to the survival of our independence and our liberty, to maintain a kind of miasmic doubt as to what our views are on these questions, or should we make it perfectly clear that our foreign policy is to preserve the independence and sovereignty of this country, and the individual liberty of its people, and that we will have neither a dictatorship of the Right nor of the Left and that anybody who thinks he can start anything of the kind in this country never made a greater mistake in his life?
What is better calculated to bring a speculative invading force from Europe to this country than the creation of doubt in the minds of European powers as to where we stand? Suppose we present a picture to Europe of wobbling, and of not being sure of which side we will come down on, must not any General Staff say: "That is worth a gamble. The country is apparently so divided that nobody in public life there dares to come down on one side or the other. That must mean that a considerable minority, at least, is on our side. Is it not worth a gamble? If we start something in Ireland and leave them to carry the baby, as they were often left to carry it before, would it not be a very valuable `diversion' on the western front to draw forces off what we want to do further cast in Europe?" If we, however, make it perfectly manifest, right from the word "go," as indeed the Taoiseach has made it manifest, that this country will never be used as a jumping-off ground for any attack on Great Britain, and that in any situation that might probably arise in the existing state of foreign affairs in Europe, we will be on the side of the Commonwealth of Nations, is that not a warning to everybody that there is no use starting an invasion here and does it not reduce the possibility of our people being left to carry the baby of war and being massacred, not because anybody in Europe gives two hoots about Irish independence or the Irish people, but because the massacre of our people and the process of massacring them would provide a useful diversion to help continental armies who are pursuing their own aims in Europe.
In that connection, let us face the next question, which I am sure the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister will dance around, avoid, cover over and prevaricate about. What are you going to do about forts that were taken over under the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Are you going to equip them as naval bases, or are you not? People ramble down the country and talk about the forts. The forts do not matter a straw. What matters are the ports. You would not sink a trawler, you would not sink a rowing-boat and, in the classic words of Deputy McMenamin, you would not sink a springing cow with the guns in the forts at the harbours we took over, but the ports are some of the finest naval bases in Europe. What are you going to do with them? Are you going to equip them for the accommodation of naval forces, or are you not?
Now, let me make myself perfectly clear on that issue. I would give, and at once, to the United States of America or Great Britain any facilities they wanted in connection with these ports. If they wanted any facilities I would give them gladly. I would say to the navies of either of those two Powers: "If there is any accommodation there that is of any use to you, you are welcome to it, and if any help can be given to you or any convenience through these ports, you are welcome to it." What does the Fianna Fáil Party or the Government intend to say in that connection? They ought to tell us now. The idea amongst them seems to be a question of asking what is the use of spending money on these ports if they are designed exclusively for the accommodation of certain Powers. It seems silly, in Dáil Eireann, to refute such an absurd illusion as that to which I am going to refer now, but, believe me, that illusion obtains very largely in the ranks of the Fianna Fáil Party. Many of them believe that the object of taking over those ports was to erect forts there which would be designed to prevent an invader gaining access to our country, though why an invader should come there in the full knowledge that these ports were being defended, God only knows—God and the Fianna Fáil Party. At any rate, they believe that. Of course, putting the forts in repair, and putting the ports in repair, as the Taoiseach undertook to do to this House after the Agreement with London, means putting them into repair as naval bases. For whom, or for what purpose? Is it for the Muirchu? If it is not for the Muirchu, who is it for? Is it for the herring and mackerel that come all too infrequently? No—it is for the fleet of some great Power. Can the Minister for Defence deny that? He cannot, of course. What great Power is concerned? Are you going to accommodate the German fleet or are you going to accommodate the Japanese fleet there; or, possibly, as some of the members of the Fianna Fáil Party may contemplate, are you going to accommodate the fleets of small nations such as that of Switzerland? The fact is that those ports are useful for only one purpose, and that is to provide a naval base for the British or the United States fleet or for both of these fleets in certain eventualities, and I think that our Government should declare at once to these two Powers: “Certainly; any facilities that you want in time of war will be afforded to you by us and you need not worry your head any further about it”, just as Canada has stated in respect of Halifax and also in respect of a port on her west coast, the name of which I cannot recall at the moment, and as South Africa has also done in respect of another port.
The sooner we face up to that issue and are honest about it the better it will be for this country and for the people of this country. I doubt if the expenditure of the money in this Estimate is going to have very much effect one way or the other. I am sorry that greater emphasis has not been thrown on the question of the air forces because, highly as I esteem the Army as a whole, I believe that in the international situation with which we are now confronted the artillery and the infantry—not for want of will, but for want of means—cannot play a very important part in the matter of defence here, whereas I do believe that the air-force can play a very substantial part in the defence of this country. I believe that this situation, as it is at present, is one of vital importance to Ireland, and I am asking the Government to face up to that situation and pursue a constructive policy. I believe that the policy outlined by myself and my colleagues is constructive and that it will secure the independence and sovereignty of this country. I believe that, bad and all as the condition of the world is, decency, tolerance and freedom are going to prevail over the medieval barbarism of the dictators. I want Ireland to declare, in no uncertain way, on the side of liberty, decency and freedom. I do not want her to give rash undertakings in the hope that she will never be called upon to fulfil them, but I want her to be in the position to say in advance and in all honesty: "This is the limit that we can go to, but if we cannot do more it is not for the want of the will to do it but for the want of the means." What does humiliate me, however, and what I imagine would humiliate every decent Irishman is that we should wobble and shiver and make rash undertakings that we cannot fulfil, and then come and try to collect on whatever gains there might be.
We want our independence and we want to try to make the name of Ireland glorious before the world. We should accept our responsibilities and we should not give any rash or flamboyant undertaking that we cannot fulfil, but coldly and dispassionately weigh what we can do and decide to do it. There is an obligation on the leaders of the people to be honest with the people, now above all times, and to tell the people honestly what the truth is. I admit that the truth may surprise many of the people who have been misled into believing things that are very far from true, but I think that there never was a time when there was a heavier responsibility on democratic leaders, not alone in this country but the world over, to take people into their confidence and tell them the truth. That is just as much the Minister's duty as are the departmental duties outlined in this Estimate. It is his duty and that of his colleagues also. We are putting forward our views in what we believe to be the best interests of Ireland in the existing state of affairs to-day, and I ask the Ministers to do the same. I ask them to face the situation realistically as it is to-day, and not as it was 100 years ago, or not to attempt to foresee what the situation is going to be 100 years hence. I could quite imagine a situation where it would be our duty to oppose or fight the British Government or the British Commonwealth of Nations if they were standing for doctrines which we could not accept. I do not see any possibility of that happening at the moment, but I could conceive that possibility. However, so long as there seems to be no probability of such a situation developing, there is no necessity to enter into that. We hold that we are a sovereign and independent State, responsible for our own destiny, and as such we have got to make up our own minds whether or not we are big enough to fulfil that destiny. To do that, I think we have got to take a reasonable stand on the principle that the first vital interest of this country is to protect Ireland and its independence, that any alliances are purely secondary to that, and that, while we enter into no commitments that we cannot fulfil or give no undertakings beyond our powers, we do face certain facts and, having determined these facts and what we are able to do, we will put our hands to the task of making our defences as efficient as foresight and the means within our power can make them. But we cannot do the defence job until we make up our minds to what end that defence is directed, and there are certain factors to which I have referred which ought to be cleared up, before that job can be properly done. It is primarily the duty of the Minister for External Affairs to deal with that aspect of the situation, and the sooner he intervenes in this debate and clears up the doubts on that issue the sooner we can get down to constructive work in dealing with the details of the Estimate laid before us.
One does not exactly know what this Vote really means, or what is intended or implied. We did not get any definite information from the Minister when introducing it as to what was the real purpose behind the Vote. I do not believe that any of the prominent members in our Party were taken into the Government's confidence, and it appears from one or two speeches we have heard from backbenchers on the Minister's own side that they are as completely ignorant as we are. The Minister pretends that this is a Vote to build up effective protection for ourselves as a purely neutral independent State. It is implied, of course, that behind it there must be some sort of alliance with somebody, possibly or probably Great Britain. If there is doubt generally as to the real feeling of the Ministry, it is implied by the speech of Deputy Crowley. Deputy Crowley was rather fearful that the Minister did not ask for enough money—he thought it should have been much more—to preserve this country from the implied intention of Great Britain to make a cockpit of it. That is the only intimation we got from anybody, Minister or Deputy, on the other side that Great Britain is going to make a cockpit of this country. Because Great Britain is going to make a cockpit of this country he asked us for £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 to protect it. If I thought that any reasonable expenditure of money was going to provide effective protection for this State, I would be all over the Minister congratulating him, but I do not believe it. I do not believe that the amount of money we are asked for here can make any material difference in the defence of this State, if we are to be purely neutral. If I believed even that there was an implied or a direct alliance with Great Britain to co-operate with her in the defence of this country, and incidentally of Great Britain, I would be wholeheartedly in support of the Minister. But we have no information that that is the intention. It is rather suggested in a veiled way that it is not the intention.
We are asked to expend £2,000,000 or £3,000,000—maybe eventually £5,000,000 —in setting up certain defences here to protect us. We are going to be in a position of armed neutrality. If we are going to be neutral at all, keeping out of the wars of the nations, I would prefer a position of unarmed neutrality rather than a position of armed neutrality as far as we can go with it, and I believe it would be much more effective in the end. If any of the nations with the modern armaments which they have, come to overrun this country, if we have any defence at all it will be rather in putting up our hands and begging for mercy, rather than pretending to defend it on a Vote of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, which is to start and build up an army and navy for the effective defence of this State Somebody said that England's difficulties were Ireland's opportunity. I am not one of the people who spout like that. I believe rather in the reverse of the generally accepted meaning of these words. I think Great Britain's difficulties should be our opportunity to expand the cordial relationship we have for years past built up with her.
We are asked to spend a niggardly sum of a few thousand pounds on coastal defence here. Does any Deputy honestly believe that the amount of money we are asked to spend on coastal defence can have any effect in defending the coasts of this country? Does not anybody with the least intelligence know that, unless we have some implied alliance with some friendly neighbour who can effectively help us to protect these coasts in case of danger, we have no hope of defending them?
I believe that almost every aspect of this Vote has been covered by the speakers who preceded me. I only got up in the hope that I might urge somebody, either on the Government Front Bench or the back benches, to give us before this debate is over some inkling of what is the real intention behind this Vote; whether we are going to continue in a pretended state of neutrality, or whether we have decided that the best policy for this country is the policy which I for one believe in —a spirit of co-operation with our neighbour across the sea, believing that in that co-operation lies the best hope of success for this country in every way. If any announcement is made in that direction, I, for one, will be wholeheartedly in support of the Minister in giving him any reasonable amount of money he may require. But I, for one, refuse to be a party to pretence, and that is what we are really asked to vote for now, so far as any information has been given to us, directly or indirectly, by any Minister or any member of the Fianna Fáil Party.
In intervening in this debate, I do not wish to disguise the fact that I appreciate—every citizen must appreciate—the seriousness of the subject matter which we are discussing, and I do not think that any time has been wasted to-day in the views put before the House by members of different Parties. I also appreciate, perhaps with some other members of the House, what it means to have the realities of real war, resulting in death and destruction of property, brought into one's immediate vicinity and under one's immediate knowledge. With that fact before me, I have no hesitation whatsoever in rising to oppose this Vote. I left this House last night under the mistaken impression that we were going to provide this year for the expenditure of £5,500,000 for the purpose of defence or for purposes of war. I care not what you like to call it. I read the papers this morning, and I saw the £5,500,000 referred to. The shock I received in this House at the mention of £5,500,000 last evening must have given a similar shock to persons in this country who opened the morning papers to-day. I found by a proper application of the rules of arithmetic that we are not only going to bind ourselves to an expenditure of £5,500,000 now, but to the problematical expenditure of another £3,000,000 during the coming three months. That means £8,500,000, or very nearly 50 per cent. of the total expenditure on all Government services ten years ago. With these facts, and with that knowledge before them, the people of this country are entitled to know what return they are going to get for all this money.
They are entitled to know, too, where Deputy Esmonde got his figures.
They are entitled to know what return they are going to get for it. Doubtless when the Minister comes to reply he will tell the people of this country the return they are going to get for that investment. I oppose this Vote first of all upon the ground that we cannot afford to expend the money. The amount is far beyond our means. Perhaps that is not a citizenlike way of looking at it. Perhaps it is the cowardly way of looking at it. But I do say again that this sum is far beyond our means. We cannot afford to expend that sum of money.
I gathered that a large proportion of the sum proposed to be expended is to be devoted to the purchase of war material in industrial countries, countries who go in for the manufacture of war materials and where there are armament factories. In those other countries in which armaments are manufactured and where there are munition factories the people get some return in the employment given in the various factories. But I gathered that a large proportion of this money that we are now asked to vote is going to be taken out of the pockets of the Irish taxpayers and sent to another country to provide war materials. We get no return for this money in the way of employment in our own country and, as I have already said, it is far beyond our means. But the position does not rest there. Even if we could afford to spend the money the first question is, is it necessary? Secondly, is it going to be effective?
The Department with which we are now dealing is known in this country as the Department of Defence. The Minister who presides over that Department is known as the Minister for Defence. In other countries in which the armaments race is going on the corresponding Department is known as the War Department and the Minister presiding over it is known as the Minister for War. Our little force exists and our Department for Defence exists for defence purposes only and for no other. Does anybody here seriously believe that even with the expenditure of the money proposed, once hostile troops land on these shores, we would be able to do anything as a result of the expenditure of the amount of money now proposed to be voted? Look at our geographical position. First of all, we cannot equip an effective fleet to defend our shores with this money. In the second place, taking our geographical position into account, is it likely that anybody is going to interfere with us?
The military advisers of the Minister have doubtless taken into consideration the present situation in Europe and the line-up of the powers there. Different powers are grouped together, not for any friendship towards each other or for any personal liking for each other but because it suits them to do so and to be in the same camp. For the same reason that the Prussians and English fought together at Waterloo against the French, to-day the French and English stand together to fight against the Germans. I venture to think that there is more affinity of spirit between the people who live in England and the people of Germany than there is between the French and English who are drawn together by the exigencies of the situation and by their geographical position on the Continent of Europe.
Sometimes we look upon the fact of this country being an island in the west of Europe as being a disadvantage to us. We are not like Majorca or Minorca or Corsica. We are just a little island out here in the Atlantic. We are cut away from European strife and we are hardly likely to be brought into the back-waters of the war. The present plan of campaign in Europe has been already mapped out and if the Minister consults his advisers he will learn from them that the front line in Germany is the Siegfried Line and that the front line in France is the Maginot Line. Yet we, right at the very rear, are going to prepare to engage in some sort of battle that is going to be fought on the Continent of Europe. Will the Minister go to his advisers and ask them do they seriously believe if any force of troops at the lar side of the Siegfried Line is going to make one shell or one bomb drop in this country. They are going to have all their activities in an opposite direction. It is not likely, owing to our geographical position that we are going to be drawn into war or into the back-waters of any war.
Then, there are political considerations to be taken into account. This country is going to be defended not by the Department of Defence but by the Department of External Affairs, by diplomacy by its envoys and its course of conduct towards events in foreign countries. Even if we could afford the sum it is ineffectual to do what it proposes to do. Because, as far as I can gather, it proposes to create or enlarge the present forces to take part in certain possible active military operations. In military science there are two forms of defence, one passive and the other active. Every army in the world is aware of this, that passive defence means sitting at home behind the front line and waiting until attacked. Active defence means going out and meeting the enemy half way. The object of spending this money is for the purpose of passive defence-waiting until attacked. Now we are going to purchase large quantities of war materials. There is a sum of £831,000 set out for the purpose of guns and carriages. That is only a beginning. The proposal is to spend these enormous sums of money before you have even thought of the extra personnel necessary to man the guns which you propose to buy. The extra personnel have got to be trained to use the guns so that they can fire away thousands of pounds every day before the enemy arrives. Under sub-head P, in the provisional Estimate before us, there is the sum of £831,340 for guns and carriages. Presumably, we will have to bring into existence freshly trained men and officers to man and use these guns. It is proposed to spend on ammunition, presumably for use in these guns, £197,000. I am quoting from the Estimates for 1939-40. What was the position a year before with regard to ammunition? The sum for guns and carriages was £23,000, and for ammunition £126,000. Although we are going to spend over £800,000 extra on guns, we are only going to spend £71,000 more on ammunition. The position, of course, will be that you will not have people trained to use those guns in practice. They will not be trained by the time this money is spent on ammunition.
I am not blaming the Minister, nor am I suggesting that he should spend more money on ammunition. My point is that no money should be spent on ammunition. The task is absolutely hopeless first because it is beyond the capacity of the taxpayers to provide sufficient money, and, secondly because you cannot train the personnel necessary to use the guns.
It is not with any desire to criticise that I rise to speak on this Vote. I am doing so because I feel that we have lost our heads in this country. I think we are rather affected by what is happening in Europe and in London. War and the preparation for war, as it is to-day, does not consist in training infantry and sending them out to fight. That is not how modern war is carried on. It is not now a war of men but a war of machinery and of the things that machinery uses up. It is a sport that can only be indulged in by millionaire nations, and we are not one of those.
I am opposed to this Vote. It does not matter how much money this country spends on an army it will not be a bit of use. For years and years Czecho-slovakia spent millions and millions on defence, but when they had not the big nations to support them they had to give in their guns and all their expenditure on defence went with the wind. I take it that this Vote must be at the dictation of the English Government because since the Agreement was made last year with England there is a suspicion down the country—with the people in the country—that there was also a secret agreement made with England at that time to spend money on defence. That is quite plain to be seen, because immediately after the Agreement was made the Government brought in a Bill to provide £600,000. And now they are going to spend this huge sum of money under this Estimate. The farmers of the country are beginning to say "that is where our annuities are going: to make guns and everything else for the defence of England and for the defence of the country." We should not be going on in this mad way. Even if we do spend millions of money we will have to give in if anybody attacks us. Everybody knows it is to the interest of England to preserve this country because in time of war it will be the chief place from which she can get food supplies. I think the Government here would be wise to have come out in the open and say that they had an Agreement with England. Then let England pay for those guns, take them over and get men to use them. She can well afford it.
I ask you to think of the poor farmer in this country who is being harassed every other day by the sheriff for annuities and hear him say "that is how my few pounds are going to pay for guns and so forth." That is what the people will think in the country. They are all blessing themselves, asking if the Government have gone mad. We all know that the world has gone mad. We are told that every morning when we open our newspapers, and we can see it for ourselves. If people in other countries are going mad, why should we follow in their footsteps. I appeal to the Government to withdraw this Estimate. I often heard it said in my young days "If you want fight, go out with a stick and you will get plenty of it." My advice to the Government is "do away with your guns and you will have no fight." That is all I have to say.
This, as has already been said, is one of the most astonishing Votes that has been submitted to this Parliament since its institution. The Minister's statement introducing it was apparently prepared with considerable care, but yet fails to disclose the fact that he or the Government has information that war is practically unavoidable. Therefore, we have to assume that he has information and has refused to give it to us, the information being that the Government have been informed either by some Power with which they are in close relations or by some of their own representatives in foreign countries, that war is coming without doubt. If that is so, the people should be told, and Parliament should be told, that a European conflict is almost certain. My point is that if the Government have that information they should say so. I do not think there is any other reason that would justify any Government, even a Fianna Fáil Administration that can do mad things at times, in bringing in this Vote.
There are a few comments I want to make on the Minister's speech. He started off by saying that the negotiations were begun on the initiation of the Taoiseach. Another reason the Minister gave for these negotiations was that it was impossible for any Government to do its duty to the people or to make plans for defence in view of the British occupation of our ports, and the military and naval facilities which the British could claim under Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty. He told us that was one of the reasons that prompted him to open up these negotiations. It is a very significant fact that the sums in dispute between the two countries were approximately £5,000,000 per annum. It is a very significant fact that that is the sum the Minister now proposes to spend this year, the year immediately after that Agreement. A number of English daily newspapers, at the time the negotiations were opened, said that the British Government had told the Irish Government that they had no hesitation whatever in agreeing to the Irish Government keeping the moneys, provided that they spent those moneys on Imperial defence plans. Must we take it that that is part of that bargain?
I think Deputy MacEoin should not base his statement on the Daily Mail. He got the correct information from the Government.
I submit that the fact speaks for itself here, that we are spending £5,000,000 this year.
That sort of stuff should be beneath the Deputy.
I said that the fact speaks for itself that it is £5,000,000 this year, and when the Minister was opening his speech he referred to the negotiations. He gave the day and date for it, and he said that the Taoiseach, speaking in the Dáil on the 29th April on the Agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom, indicated that certain defence measures would be proposed. He has denied here at home that there was any defence arrangement between the two countries, but in drawing attention to it in this House, he is telling the British: "Although I have denied there is an agreement between the two countries, by mentioning this fact I am showing that I am giving effect to whatever agreement we made."
It is quite a diplomatic way of getting over the people's minds here. You can fool them with that, and it is just like everything that the Prime Minister does. There is never a thing he says that he does not see a long journey ahead. No matter what you tackle him to-day with, he is always able to say: "Speaking in the Dáil..."; or in such-and-such a place on such a day "I said..." The Minister for Defence, as his mouthpiece here yesterday evening, could say that this £5,500,000 arose out of that Agreement. It is not, I submit, an unreasonable interpretation to put on it. The Government apparently have come to the conclusion—I do not want to be controversial; I merely want to point out a fact—that the Irish people are sheep to be driven. It is a long time ago since they said that before, but they have not changed, and, unfortunately, the people have either been driven or led—I do not know which—by them in such a way that they do not know where they are.
The Minister's speech is, I think, the most important pronouncement that has come from that Front Bench. He has told us that there are two situations to cater for. One is the maintenance of neutrality and the other is the likelihood of attack by a Power with which Great Britain is at war. The Minister went on to say:
"It is assumed that it is most unlikely that we should be attacked by a Power not at war with Great Britain."
I draw the special attention of the House to these two phrases, because in my opinion they are very significant. They are significant in this sense: that there is now no question of the Army or the forces in this State being used against Great Britain. Mind you, I saw the time here in which the Army should not be voted for because it was never to be used against Great Britain. Now, like many of the conversions that have taken place, that is thrown overboard.
Therefore, we have nothing to worry about unless Great Britain is at war with some other country and, if she is, then we are likely to be attacked. Why? As Deputy Esmonde has properly pointed out, if we are in that danger it simply means that it is not defence that has failed, but the Department of External Affairs and the Minister for that Department. It means that he has not informed, and his Ministers Plenipotentiary in various countries have not informed, the Governments of those countries of the actual position that we occupy. I admit that it is almost impossible to clarify the position, in view of some of the answers which the Minister for External Affairs gave to me quite recently in the Dáil when questioned upon the appointment of these Ministers, but that is another matter. If we are attacked, in the event of Great Britain being attacked, it is because of the failure of the Minister for External Affairs, who in reality is the head of the Government of this country. There is a Minister for Industry and Commerce, a Minister for Defence, and these and all the other Ministers may have this or that point of view, but when the Prime Minister speaks there is only one view, and it is he whom I hold responsible if that failure takes place.
It is a rather peculiar thing that the plan or the outline of the proposed expenditure in this Supplementary Estimate is working in, so far as I can follow it, with the plans for what is known as Imperial defence. The most serious shortage that the British Government has at the moment is men, and this Estimate is built solely on infantry. Therefore, do we take it that the agreement is that Great Britain is to produce the special sections, and that we are to produce the foot sloggers? As Deputy O'Higgins pointed out, if this country is attacked the attack can only take place in two ways. We can, first of all, be invaded by people we would be in a position to meet, by infantry carried overseas. That can only take place when the British Navy is whacked to the roots and gone. Then, as it has been said outside, when that takes place the best thing you can do is to send out the Lord Mayor and let him shake hands with the newcomers. There is no use in you going on. Mind you, it would not be a bad way out of the problem. If the British Navy is gone, then it is possible we would have an invasion, and I am perfectly satisfied that in that event the forces in this State would give a tip-top account of themselves. I am perfectly satisfied that they should get all the equipment that is required to place them in that position, but such a situation is almost impossible to imagine. If it takes place, it does not matter very much what happens after that.
The other type of invasion would be through the air. Without going too far into the matter, it has been maintained that a very effective force can be landed by air behind the lines of an army at the present time. I find it very hard to visualise that, but so many things are happening that it is possible. It is also possible that this country and its towns and cities can be bombed. These are the main dangers, the landing of a force from the air and bombing from the air. Therefore, at least two-thirds of our defence equipment should, in my opinion, be air forces. The astonishing part about it is that I have been informed that aeroplanes have been bought in England and elsewhere, but we have only 71 of a personnel to handle the whole lot. We have 32 flying officers, five observers, six aero engineers, 20 cadets and eight other ranks. That constitutes the Air Corps. I suggest that 60 planes with 71 men to handle them is a poor-looking effort. I should like to know exactly what steps have been taken to develop that particular branch. I have no doubt that the personnel is efficient but the numbers are not sufficient.
There are a few other matters in this speech to which I should like to draw attention. The Minister has told us that it is proposed to buy rifles and machine-guns for arming forces who will be raised for local protection. I take it he means that these forces will consist of civilians to a great extent, and that they will be spread all over the country. I hope that he will have the Public Safety Act fully in operation when they are down the country. Is he satisfied that he can keep these arms in the hands of the people to whom he will issue them or is this a new method of arming a few more irregular forces throughout the country? The Minister also says that no matter what is done by the Government to afford protection to the civilian population, any such action will be wholly negatived unless the civilian population is trained to take its part intelligently. The Government has thought of that exactly ten years too late. If they had helped the Government that preceded them in office, to get the people to realise that the Army was something to depend on and not something to be despised, the people would then be able to take an intelligent part and their minds would not have been warped and closed against instruction on the question of defence.
The Minister further says that he proposes to change the conditions of service of volunteers, their ages, terms of enlistment and training, and that he proposes to let anybody go who does not accept the new conditions. That is perfectly all right, but he has not changed the method by which these volunteers are enlisted, that is, through the sluagh committees. My suggestion to him is that, before he proceeds on that line, he should have a reorganisation of the whole system. I am a firm believer in the necessity of having the youth of the country taking part in the defence of the country, and in having a high sense of civic responsibility amongst the people, but so long as you maintain committees for the organisation of these volunteers on, to say the least of it, a semi-political basis, and so long as they do not represent all sections of the community, they cannot be effective. Now that the Taoiseach has come in, I would like to repeat what I have said: that this question of defence, in my opinion, was dictated by Great Britain.
It is a falsehood. You need not go any further. It is an absolute falsehood.
Let me make my case, and then, perhaps, when I have done so, the Taoiseach can have his say. Falsehood is rather——
It is a strong word.
It would be stronger if conditions would permit it.
Many things have been said that were falsehoods in this Dáil, lies on the face of them. This carries more truth than many of the things that have been said and declared to be falsehoods here. Collins was charged with attacking the Four Courts under Churchill's orders. We said it was false, but that did not prevent even the Prime Minister from saying it was true. The Minister opened on this Vote by saying that you could not make plans for defence until the financial dispute with Great Britain was settled. It is rather a peculiar fact that a number of newspapers—not the Daily Mail alone, as the Minister said—stated that the British were giving you the sums in dispute, provided you spent the money on defence. Is it not a significant fact that the sums in dispute totalled £5,000,000, and that the actual sum you are spending this year is £5,000,000? If that is a coincidence, tell it to the broadcasting station, because there has been nothing like it in this country. You will get 2/6 for it from Dr. Kiernan, as one of the strange coincidences.
The only difference is that this is one sum of £5,000,000. The other was a sum of £5,000,000 a year. There is no difference in that, according to the Deputy.
No, Sir. Next year you can bring in another Estimate for £5,000,000. I am not a fool. I happened to be a member of the Council of Defence for a while, and I know that the proper defence of this country cannot be undertaken for £5,000,000 a year. The Taoiseach will find some memoranda to that effect, and so will the Minister. We are not going to be attacked by anybody except a nation that is at war with Britain, and if we are not, it will be in Britain's interest to supply us with these materials free of cost. She can afford to spend £10,000,000 in CzechoSlovakia after the war is over there. She borrowed money and material from America during the Great War, and did not pay for it. You would not be creating any precedent and it would be no harm at all, if you said: "We are so closely related geographically that our interests are the same as yours, and if you are attacked, we are attacked." I might not agree with that attitude, but I could understand it, because it would be straight. You might not agree with that point of view, but it is one which you could understand.
Here we have a Government trying to keep one foot in and the other out We are a republic at home, where nobody cares, and we are a monarchy all over the world. We send out our Ministers in the name of His Majesty and here we are, afraid to say that we are taking part in the defence of these islands because what affects one affects the other. We are afraid to tell the people down the country that if they have to pay £5,000,000 of a capital sum —not only that, but £2,500,000 per annum, for this year at any rate—it is in the interests of Great Britain. The Government dare not tell even their own back-benchers that it is in the interests of Great Britain, because, if they did, quiet and all as these back-benchers are, there would be a revolt in the benches opposite. The Government can go on blandly pretending that they are fighting Great Britain and struggling with her while their defence policy is becoming part and parcel of the defence policy on the other side.
There is one line that this country should adopt, and that is a policy of strict neutrality. I hold that, at the same time, we should build up our defences so that no matter what nation decides to attack us, they cannot do it light-heartedly. They will have to consider the possibility of receiving a certain set-back if they attempt it. Therefore, I agree that there is a responsibility upon the Government of this country to equip a defence force to defend that neutrality and to make it too costly for whatever nation or government proposes to attack us.
I do not say we could put up a force that would beat that Government. Belgium is an instance. Nobody suggested that Belgium could beat Germany but the hold up of the German forces by Belgium, for even a few short weeks in 1914, cost Germany the war. That lesson has been taken to heart by every nation. Therefore, you want a force capable of defending your neutrality and maintaining it. I submit that that could be done with considerably less money than is being demanded. I say that the Government are taking this money off the Irish people at a time when their resources were never lower, when the farmers all over the country have been robbed through various causes—a bad season, floods of various descriptions and then frost, with unemployment, as the Minister for Industry and Commerce admitted the other day, on the increase. I can assure the House that suffering, through poverty, is rife all over the country. This is the time the Government decides to spend the colossal sum of £7,000,000 or £8,000,000. They do that in the same year that they paid £10,000,000 to Great Britain for the purpose of being allowed to undertake that defence. No Government with any sense of responsibility would face a Parliament with such a proposition unless, as I said at the start, they could assure the House, or call in a committee of the House to assure them, that a war was imminent, that they had entered into these commitments with this country or that country to take part in that war either in defence of the two countries or in defence of one country and that, in their opinion, the economic life of the country demanded this step. If they did that, you could understand the position but you have the Government bringing in this measure with no facts except this document which, I take it, is the best the Government can produce. They ask this House calmly to pass that Estimate. I am not going to say that no part of it should be passed but I say that a committee of the House should be set up to examine the whole question of national defence or to hear from the Government what their problems and difficulties are. Let them explain what the difficulty is which the country is likely to have to face and then, in the light of that knowledge, let us sit down and solve the difficulty or come back to the House and say that, the question having been examined, we are satisfied that the Government's proposals are essential. If we had that done, we should make some headway but, as the matter stands, no justification is made for expenditure of the money.
So far as I can see, the greatest negotiator this country has produced— the Prime Minister himself—who went across to Great Britain and negotiated a financial settlement which gave away our tariffs position and everything like that, has entered into an agreement, either verbal or written, that he is going to take part in the defence of Great Britain or in the defence of these islands, which was his perfect phrase, to the tune of £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 per annum. Deputy Smith may smile. If he goes down to the Cavan farmers and tells them that, no matter how hard hit they are, no matter how bad the season was, no matter how much seed oats or seed potatoes they want, they have to pay up a capital sum of £5,000,000 for the defence of these islands, the snug farmers of Cavan will look under the brow of their hat at him. The people will be bound to pay this sum but where they are going to get it, I do not know. When we suggested derating and other concessions, the question flung at us was "Where is the money to come from?" Now, with the crack of a finger, we can get £5,000,000 for capital expenditure on defence and we can increase our annual expenditure by about £1,500,000. I think that this Parliament is entitled to an explanation which they have not got in the Estimate.
As nobody seems anxious to speak from either side, I suppose I had better intervene. With all the points that have been raised, it is very hard to know where to begin. Right through this debate— because it is regarded as good politics, and for no other reason, by people who ought to have, at least, some sense of responsibility — the suggestion has been made that what we are doing in regard to defence has been dictated by the British Government. The British Government have no idea of what we are going to do in regard to defence. I have said—how many more times is it necessary to say it?—that we are under no commitments of any kind in regard to the Agreement made about a year ago save those set out there. I came back to the House and, in the most explicit terms, I said we had entered into no commitments, tacit, implied, verbal or written, of any kind whatsoever save those set out in the Agreement. Are there any words in which I can state that fact so as to carry conviction? I am sure there are not, because there are people who think the Irish people will always be suspicious. Heaven knows their history has entitled them to be suspicious but, standing here as the responsible Head of the Government, I say to the members of the Dáil and to the Irish people that we are a completely free Government at this moment, with no commitments to anybody. I am asked about neutrality, and the people who talk to us about neutrality are those who know that, before the Agreement was made last year, neutrality was impossible.
By the terms of the Articles of the Treaty which we got cancelled, Britain was entitled to claim in time of war or strained relations with any foreign power any facilities that she might require, whether they were for air purposes or on land or sea for the coastal defence of this country and Great Britain. I pointed out to the Dáil on many occasions that, with that there, we could not be regarded and would not be regarded as neutral. No matter how much we might claim it, we would not be regarded as neutral by outside Powers.
One of the difficulties in forming any defence plan for this country was the knowledge of the impossible situation which would be created by the fact that Britain, under the terms of that Treaty, could make that claim, and that the Irish Government would be in this dilemma: The Irish Government would either have to refuse to accept that claim, refuse to give facilities and be involved in a conflict with Britain, or they would have to give those facilities and be open to all the attacks which some of the members who have spoken here to-day would be very glad to lead if they were not on these benches. We changed that position, and it was the big thing nationally in the Agreement that that was changed, and we entered into no commitments for the change of it. The payment of £10,000,000 was made in respect of a claim for £100,000,000—£80,000,000 in regard to the land annuities, and the remaining £20,000,000. We wiped out the land annuity claim and we paid one-half of the remainder. That was what the money was paid for. It was not paid for any other purpose whatsoever. The ports were taken over without any commitments. This Parliament is quite free, if it wants to put in a Government which has it as their policy, to dismantle the forts completely if they want to. If we were to go out of Office to-morrow, and another Government were to come in here, that Government would find itself uncommitted by any agreements with Great Britain with regard to defence; perfectly free to take any policy that it would seem good to them in the national interests to take. That is the position we have been trying to get for this country, and we have been holding out, despite suggestions from the opposite side, that we should now declare that we were on this side or the other.
I read out here on a previous occasion a statement made in the Parliament in Canada with regard to the right of Canada to be neutral if they wanted to, the sovereign right of the Parliament there to enter into war or not as they choose. And that is our position here; it is our position, not in virtue of some Commonwealth constitution, which I have never heard of. I should like to know what that Commonwealth constitution is, and where it exists. It is like the Commonwealth foreign policy and other things spoken about by people who should know better. There is no Commonwealth constitution. There is no common foreign policy. Each State is entitled to take its own line as far as foreign policy is concerned, and we have here in our own law explicitly set out what is the nature of our relationships with those States in so far as it is of importance to us. In our Constitution it is set out clearly that war shall not be declared or participated in except with the assent of Dáil Eireann, the people's Assembly. It would not be competent for the Ministers to declare war, or to give anybody advice to declare war, and if war were going to be declared by this country it would be declared in whatever manner the Executive authority, which is the Government of the day, should decide. The Government of the day here, according to our Constitution, is the Executive authority in regard to external affairs, and if war were to be declared, agreed upon by Dáil Eireann, the Government of the day would declare war itself if it wanted to, and there is no obligation to use any organ other than the Government to declare war. When people, then, put themselves in the position of Constitutional lawyers, and try to tell us what the Constitutional position is, they ought at least, before they assume the professorial chair, to acquaint themselves with the position.
We were told by Deputy Norton, who again of course is playing politics, that our position is not known internationally. How could we better make it known than we have been doing? We have declared here our right to be neutral. We have declared here that we are under no commitments to any State or any foreign Power; that we are perfectly free to take whatever line of action seems to the Parliament of the day best in the national interests. He referred to what the British call the inter se doctrine. Even in the time of the previous Government that position was made clear. There is nobody in Geneva who takes the view that Deputy Norton takes. On a few occasions in Geneva, representatives of foreign States said: “You are the most independent State in Geneva,” because we are not liable to be threatened or bullied by any State into taking any action which did not commend itself to us from our view of what was good for our nation, which we are representing, and for mankind in so far as we have any say in universal matters.
And they said that before April, 1938?
I am not saying what they said before. I am saying and did say that a very big change in the whole situation occurred in 1926. I have said so. I have never denied it. But a bigger change in the situation came afterwards.
In 1927? I wish that we would not get into these disputes. I am not disputing the advances that were made, and never have disputed the advances that were made after 1926 by the people on the opposite side when they were here on these benches, but there remained a lot more to do, and not least of the things that remained to do was to remove Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty which deprived us of the right of being regarded as neutral. I would be foolish if I tried. History can show what advances were made on the opposite side, and I do not want to deny anybody any credit that history can give them in regard to any developments.
With regard then to our position internationally, there is no doubt in the mind of anybody, except those who want to be culpably ignorant, as to what our position is. It is in our Constitution; it is in our Acts. If Britain, as she did in connection with the optional clauses, wanted to make reservations, at the very same time the representatives from here made it clear that that was not their view. Whenever there has been an attempt to impose that particular viewpoint, the representatives of this country invariably made it clear that that was not their view.
The same thing is true with regard to citizenship. In the Citizenship Act we have made it clear who are Irish citizens, and made it equally clear that Irish citizens do not have any other citizenship by our law. If another country continues to claim anybody who is born here, that country is acting contrary to international usage. As I said here before, it is an impertinence on their part. We cannot impose our views, and get them accepted everywhere, but, as far as we are concerned, we have been at pains on every occasion to indicate what our views are, what our international position is, and that we mean to live up in the future to that international position, as we have lived up to it in the past. I do hope that for those who are genuinely suspicious, my words, which are as strong and as definite as I can make them, will end that suspicion, if they are honestly suspicious. It is too much to hope that politicians will cease to play upon people who have not got the opportunity to hear what I am saying, or what other people said as well as I have said, in the way that members of the House have heard. We are meeting here, perfectly free to adopt any defence policy whatever that seems good in the national interest. I hope that is clear. You can turn this Government out. You can agree that the best defence policy of this country is to have no policy. You can disband your Army. You can dismantle the forts. You can do any single thing from the point of view of a complete wiping out of any defence whatever, or you can double, treble or quadruple the provision proposed here. I hope that is clear to everybody.
We, as the responsible Government in that situation, come before you with proposals of the Minister that, in our opinion, are the best. We do not claim to be infallible. We do not claim to be able to foresee everything that could possibly arise, and naturally we have open ears for any criticism or for any suggestion as to how national defence can be better provided for than by the proposals of the Minister. Let us try, in the context of what I have said, to think of our means. As I said, we are quite free to adopt any policy we choose.
What policy would commend itself? There is no necessity to have a Committee of the House. We have no secrets. We can take the House into confidence, as we can take the country into confidence. We are relatively a small nation with limited resources. We are in an important position on the globe, a position which for long meant that the British coveted it. It was hard to get them to surrender forts like Berehaven and Lough Swilly, which dominated the important trade routes of the world. Why did they do it? Probably for some of the reasons that were suggested by Deputy Dillon. Probably they balanced the pros and cons, as we would do in a similar case, and having balanced them, came to the conclusion that it was better, in their interests that the ports should be surrendered, than that they should continue to hold them against the opposition of the Irish people. I can give no other reason. I believe nations are selfish, whether small or great, and if these important harbours were surrendered, it was certainly, in my opinion, because, on the whole balancing of the advantages and disadvantages, the British Government considered that, in the present circumstances, it was more to their interest that we should have these ports than that they should have them. I think they decided wisely. Of course, there are people who think that if anything is to Britain's advantage we should, even to the disadvantage of ourselves, oppose it. I am not one of those. Considering the Irish position only, and from the point of view of Irish interests, we have to ask ourselves: "Will we take the ports or will we not?" We went over to demand and to try to get the ports. Suppose we had not gone, and that they were turned over to us without demand, would we, or would we not take them? What have we been fighting for? What have we been struggling for, but to get our sovereignty recognised over our territory? You might as well say to me to-morrow that if the Six Counties offered to come into the national Parliament, you should turn them out, because of the extra obligations that might be imposed upon us by having that part of our territory restored. I am giving the example I gave. Everybody knows that it would not be all profit for the people in this part of Ireland if the Six Counties came in. There would be a balancing of profit and loss, but even that the loss was much greater than I believe it would be, is there any Irishman who would say: "No, we will not take them?" I could understand an Ireland refusing to take them under certain conditions. In the Seanad I said there were conditions in which I would not take them. If the ports were offered to us on conditions, I would say: "No, they are our right to dispose of as we choose. If we get them on that condition they are of value, but, if we do not get them on that condition you can keep them, so long as we are not able to take them."
We are, as I have said, able to approach this question with the fullest freedom. We have differences of opinion. It is quite natural. Do not imagine for a moment that the proposals here emanated at once. It took a considerable time to get at the point of deciding what was the best thing to do and what was the best line for us to take. As I have said, you have extremes. Take any group of Irishmen meeting together. If you were to take people in the opposite Front Bench who sat down to discuss this matter you would find you would have extremes running from Deputy Dillon to, let us say, the point of view that, anyhow, has been stated—put it that way—by Deputy MacEoin. It is equally true of a Cabinet or any other group. In our situation as a small nation, in an important position, a position which would attract any naval Power that wanted to dominate, unless they had good reasons, as I believe England had, for not doing so, what are we to do to defend ourselves? Our resources are small. It is quite true, as was said by those who oppose this expenditure, that there are a number of other ways in which we could spend the money. We would very willingly spend the money in a way other than this way, but we are only facing a problem which is faced by practically every nation in the world to-day, certainly by all European nations, great and small. Which is the right course to take—that of complete nakedness in defence, expecting that your inoffensiveness will be a safeguard against the greed or the desire to take advantage of others? I wish that our intention not to hurt anybody was sufficient defence, because we have no intention to hurt anybody. I do not think this nation has any such wish. Certainly this Government has no hostile intent against any other nation. We may be interested, but we certainly are not going to think that it is an important matter for the nation to side with one side or other in another country as to what form of Government they want. We believe in our own form of Government here and I hope we would defend it, but we believe—at least I do and I think it is true of the members of the Government—that every State ultimately will get the Government it wants itself and that suits itself. Just as we would claim for ourselves the right to choose here whatever form of Government we want, so we admit that other States also have the right to choose for themselves whatever form of Government they want and we are not going to have any quarrel with them unless they try to impose upon us views which we are not accepting. We have no hostile intent, but, as I have said, unfortunately, we cannot rely on that as a protection. We know that there is a possibility of being attacked.
I do not believe, for instance, that Holland has any hostile intent against any other country. I do not believe that Switzerland has. I do not believe that Belgium has. I do not believe that Denmark has. Yet, not one of those States would be prepared to rely on the protection of their innocence of hostile intent alone to protect them from attacks from outside. Everyone of these States is trying to do what we are doing. They are trying to add to their desire to live their own lives in their own way without any interference from other people, whatever they can in the way of defence, to the extent their resources will permit, so that the temptation which would be there if they were completely naked of defence might not lie any longer. That is the view we take here. Even though any measures of defence which we would be inclined to take would be inadequate to protect us completely against the attack of any of the great Powers, we believe that by going the distance we propose, which we believe will be within our means, that that will be in fact a considerable defence.
It is not a new problem—this of a small country faced with a larger one trying to decide to what extent it should use its resources to defend itself. I was discussing this matter with somebody a short time ago and he showed me a passage in, I think it was, the First Phillipic of Demosthenes, in which he was advising the Athenians on measures of defence and he said to them: "Let me not be met with the argument that this will not do the job." He did not use quite that language, but that is what it meant. Let me not be met, because the measures I propose are not sufficient, with the argument that we should do nothing, and let us not have big schemes on paper. Let us try to do the things that are within our means to do, and if they should be proved not sufficient, and if our means will permit us, let us go further. It is precisely on that general basis that these Estimates and this policy have been framed. We believe we can go this distance and we believe it is wise to go this distance. We are ready to admit to others that it is not sufficient to give us general protection but we do believe that it is very much better to have the protection which this will give than to be absolutely naked of defence.
What are the proposals? There is a proposal to have certain positions in the country garrisoned. These are all-important points. They need to be garrisoned and need to be protected. A certain force is necessary for that. There is a small striking force, as I think the Minister indicated, being equipped with such weapons as would make them a match for a similar force. There is a certain protection against possible air attack. Deputy Norton made some remark, I think, about the need for the protection against air attacks of our civilian population. Evidently, he thinks such a thing might happen, and, if he looks at the general provision, he will find that, roughly, £2,000,000 is devoted to protection against attack from the air. I am talking in rough figures. Nearly £1,000,000 is to be spent in regard to air-craft defence by means of aeroplanes, and so on, and there is about another £1,000,000 on anti-aircraft guns and ammunition, etc.
We are all experts in these matters, of course, and one man would say we should spend all the money on aeroplanes, and another will say we should spend all the money on anti-aircraft guns. Even the real experts differ on these matters, and there is a certain compromise there on what the Headquarters Staff agree would be the best use for that particular sum of money. Suppose you had £2,000,000 and said to the Headquarters Staff here: "Give us expert advice as to the best way in which that can be used." The answer you would get from them at present is the answer that is contained in the proposals here. We are spending, roughly, one half of it on aeroplanes and one half of it on ani-aircraft guns and ammunition. I will admit that, personally, I would be inclined to go more for aeroplanes, except for the cost. Remember that aeroplanes such as would be required cost anywhere from over £6,000 each to £10,000 each, and that the average life of an aeroplane is only from three to five years. When you think of the cost of defence by air in that particular way, you will come to the conclusion that, if you were to get anything like satisfactory defence, you would very soon run into figures which would be unreasonably large and for which we could not ask our people, at the moment, anyhow. I hope there will not be any occasion for increasing this provision. We could not come to them and ask them to face the expendi- ture to provide the complete fleet of aircraft which we really would require or might require to give us adequate protection. This division between anti-aircraft guns and aeroplanes has been decided in consultation with experts, on their knowledge and the knowledge that has been got elsewhere in regard to effective air defence.
As I say, is it open to any of us to say that it should be all anti-aircraft guns and all aircraft? I have given the House one of the principal difficulties with regard to aircraft—the cost. With regard to the guns, if a possible invader knows that there are guns, he is not going to come as deliberately, and he is not going to be as accurate when shells are knocking about, as he would be if there were not any guns. Next we have, as I have told the House, the ground army as the backbone and basis of the defence scheme, with garrisons in the places of importance, and a striking force, should there be need of it, and we have the protection, such as it is, in the air against air attack. Those are the general principles of the distribution of the money on the various forces.
Now, is the amount colossal, as we have been told here? It is undoubtedly a sum very much larger than we would like to spend. We have been slow in deciding to spend it. Complaints have been made from the opposite benches that we left our people unprotected and that we had not made the necessary preparations at the time of a crisis last autumn. I think that ought to be at least an argument against those who complain that we are rushing into this expenditure needlessly. Is it colossal? Let us look at the sums spent by other countries, which are more or less in our situation, on their defence. Switzerland is spending, roughly, 25 per cent. of its revenues on defence; Sweden is spending 20 per cent.; Denmark is spending 13 per cent.; Finland is spending 25 per cent.; Holland is spending 20 per cent.; and Portugal is spending 26 per cent. We propose to spend, roughly, 5 per cent. Is it colossal? It is colossal from one point of view, from the point of view that it is an unfortunate thing that sums of that magnitude, whether they be 5 per cent., 20 or 25 per cent. of national revenues, should be spent on protection. We are proposing to spend only 5 per cent. I am told now that that figure of 5 per cent.——
It is scarcely right.
We can get the figure. It will not take very long to work it out. I was under a misapprehension about it. As I say, the figure for Switzerland is 25 per cent.; Sweden 20 per cent.; Denmark, 13 per cent.; Finland, 25 per cent.; Holland, 20 per cent.; Norway, 10 per cent.; Belgium, 13 per cent.; and Portugal, 26 per cent. I am perfectly certain that our percentage is much lower than any of them.
How many wars did those countries fight in the last 20 years?
I do not know.
We fought two.
I hope they will not have to fight any, but the trouble is that, in this country, it is the first time that any Government had to come here, in the face of an international situation, with the responsibility on them of providing for our defence. In the past, in 1914, another Government was looking after that, and we were paying in taxation and the rest for it. We had no control over it, and there was no Irish Government to come before the Irish people and ask them whether they liked it or not; and there was no Irish Parliament to which the people could come and say whether they liked to pay these moneys or not. They paid whatever sum was imposed in taxation by a foreign Parliament for the purpose. We are now, for the first time, facing this particular obligation of freedom, the obligation of trying to preserve it, and when I am asked by whom we are likely to be attacked, I say that I do not know, and neither does anybody else. We cannot guess, nor can we be sure. There are two combinations at present which we see in Europe. We do not know whether a great war will break out between them, but, if we can help it, we will not be in that war at all. Remember, however, that the maintenance of neutrality is most difficult of all, and perhaps the most costly of all, because, in trying to maintain a neutral position, you have to try to envisage an attack from any quarter. If you are going to take the side of one of them—I am talking now from the point of view of expense in equipment—your problem would be easier from the point of view of envisaging the possibilities, the part you were to play would be limited, and, possibly, the expense you would have to incur would be less. It is precisely because we are not committed, and do not want to be committed, to war of that sort that we have to make the provision we are making.
I have said on a previous occasion, and I do not mind reminding the House of it, that it is very difficult to remain neutral. I said that we would not be regarded as neutral by a foreign Power if the Treaty conditions remained, that is, if it suited the purpose of that foreign Power, and no declaration of neutrality on our part would be a protection, if it should suit any particular Power to ignore our declaration of neutrality and to try to use us for their own purposes. I have said here that we would naturally try, if there was a war, to continue our economic life. Is there any responsible person here who is going to subscribe to the view that we should stand what would be the equivalent of a blockade in respect of, let us say, food—the ordinary trade in cattle, for example, between this country and Britain. There is a time in which supplies of food might be regarded by an enemy of Britain as vital for her. I think it was regarded as a sort of conditional contraband during the last war, and a nation's neutrality was not respected by the combatants in the last war. It is possible that despite any declarations on our part of our desire to keep out of these conflicts, if we desired and tried to carry on the trade which is essential to our economic life here, we would be regarded as a combatant, and our neutrality would not be respected.
In the same way, we have no ships of our own to any extent. We have got to get in here supplies of various kinds. Do you think that these supplies would be given, in the ships that belong to Britain, for example, if you were to refuse to give the goods which would purchase these supplies, the goods that they want? Trade between Ireland and Britain, during a time of war, would be essential for the continuance of the economic life here, and because it would be so it might be regarded as a matter of vital importance by some outside country that might be at war with Britain, and despite any declaration of neutrality that might be made on our part, the nation whose interest would lie in the stopping of that trade might try to disorganise it and prevent it and might try, for example, to bomb our harbours and wharves and otherwise prevent the supplies that we would be sending from here in pursuance of our normal trade from being sent out from here. Therefore we have to envisage the possibility—I hope it will never become a reality—but we have to envisage the possibility of that, and we have also to envisage the possibility of Britain trying to make use of our territory for reasons for which we do not want her to make use of it. In so far as we are not naked here, in so far as we have some defence forces here, we may also limit the possibilities of attack and cause to hesitate those who might otherwise think that it would be to their interest to try to use this country for their own purposes.
As I have said, the position as it existed before the last Agreement made it almost impossible to draw up any defence scheme here, and it would be ten times easier to draw up a defence scheme to-day if we had the Six Counties included. In view of the existence of that Border and the difference of view that it will cause here amongst our citizens, it is vain to think that there are not people in this country who think that that particular area—particularly the portion of it where there are people who want to be with us and who are kept from joining us against their will—it is vain to think that a war might not be used to try to get them back.
We have an internal situation created by that, and that internal situation does make a great difficulty in planning the defences of this country, just as it would be more difficult to plan the defences of this country if the ports were still occupied by the British and if these other Articles had been retained. Since these have been removed, the planning of our defences here is a matter of less difficulty, and there would be very much less difficulty in planning our defences if we had Ireland as a whole under the jurisdiction of a single Parliament and a single authority with a single Executive responsible. We have not that situation, however, and that is a factor that we have to bear in mind in regard to our defences here.
I believe, and I have always acted on the belief, that from the British point of view a completely free, independent, and, therefore, from the point of view of relations with Britain, a satisfied Ireland was a more valuable protection for her than anything she could gain here by possessing our territory, and that the possession of our territory, with a naturally hostile population here, would mean that she would be in a weak position in a crisis. That is not any new preaching of mine. I have preached it for 20 years. I have preached, that with a free Ireland, naturally desirous of preserving its freedom, if we had the whole of this island here as a united State, a free Ireland would be interested and even glad to see a strong Britain because a strong Britain would be a protection, assuming that she had given up any attempt to interfere with us here, for we would not want to get into a similar position with some other Power and have another centuries old struggle with that Power. There I would go as far as Deputy Dillon. Unfortunately, I cannot say that, so long as we have a divided Ireland. As long as Ireland is divided there will be people here who will hate Britain's interference here, and many of them will be wishing Britain's downfall, even though there might be a risk for themselves in Britain's downfall, because, by her downfall, the forced separation of this country might end.
That has been our argument all the time—the argument that has been expressed in public and in private with regard to the relations between Ireland and Great Britain—and there has been no change as far as our attitude in that regard is concerned. I believe that, no matter how we may differ as to the immediate means towards the final end, that is the final end for which every Deputy here wishes, and I believe that, until it is secured, whether it be in this Assembly or in any other Assembly, or by any group of Irishmen throughout this country who may come together, there will be a large section of them that will not be reconciled to Britain and that will wish, as it was wished in the past, for Britain's destruction if that destruction were the only means of getting the country united and securing the independence which our people are entitled to expect. That is the position. As I say, we may differ; those who are now on the opposite side of the House may be over here, and we who are here now may be over there, or we may be dead, but that view is fundamentally true, as everybody listening to me knows, and there is no power that can change it, nor can any influence of Parties or individuals or groups of Parties or of individuals change it. The only way to change it, and to completely change it, is to undo the wrong that our people feel was done to them from the start when a foreign Power came in here and tried to use our territory.
We have no hatred—no section of the Irish people has any hatred—of the British people as such. We want to end the quarrel. We want to be friends, and we would be willing—most of us, I am sure—to make the profession made by Deputy Dillon, namely, that we would wish, as a free country, to see Britain powerful and strong, not for their interests but for our own, but it would be to their interests. In so far as we have ever worked, whether outside the Government or in the Government, it has been to try to secure good relations between the two countries on that basis.
I am afraid I have gone somewhat away from the narrow subject of defence, but I was asked to do so. We were asked not to take this as a mere isolated matter, but to take it on the general grounds of international policy and foreign relations. I have tried to do that. I can understand individuals differing from us, with regard to the individual items, as to whether or not this expenditure should be made, but on the general basis that it is in the national interest that this should be done, that we can afford this sum, although it is very difficult, that it is not nearly as big as what other small countries have to bear in the circumstances, I believe it is true—and it is because of my conviction and the conviction of the Government that it is true that we are putting this forward—that it is in our own interests and not in the interests of any other Power, that we ask the House to pass this Vote.
We have heard very little about this Estimate from any of the speakers who have recommended it to the House. We have heard a long speech now about home affairs, which it is possible to assume is being made to the British Government or to the British people. But this is an Irish Parliament and we have to deal with matters before us. We have to consider the question of a large sum of money being voted for defence, with a very poor description given us of how the money is to be spent; with a certain hesitancy on the part of the Government in introducing the Estimate at all; and with various explanations as to the reasons and the needs for it.
We are told that we are to aim at neutrality. One is certainly forced to the conclusion that that is a political slogan for the people. Nobody who has had any association whatever with the events of the last 25 years, and most of the people who are considering this question are sufficiently old to review the events of the last 25 years can, in a time of war, put 6d. on a declaration of neutrality. Belgium was neutral but it did not preserve her territory. She armed to meet possible attacks from two sides, but she was at least convinced of one thing—that she was bound to defend her territory and to preserve her integrity.
Are we to assume that, on a given day, if we are attacked either by sea or by air, we are to await the assembly of this Parliament and to get the consent of this Parliament to enter into a war? Does not everybody know that that is nonsense? While you may lay down, in your Constitutions and in your treaties, obligations, conditions, securities, and all the rest of it, does not everybody know that, in a time of war, these are, as they were described by one of the exponents of military power on the Continent, merely scraps of paper? So that, if we are going to be neutral, we require to be armed against all sides. We have just heard that neutrality is costly, that it is difficult, and, in certain cases, that it is impossible to preserve.
If our object is the defence of this country, let us examine what the Government has done in this matter during the last 12 months. In the course of the statement to which we have just listened, we were told, not for the first time, that by reason of the Agreement with Great Britain in April last we had disposed of a claim of £100,000,000 for £10,000,000—I think that was an irrelevant introduction, but I am glad of the irrelevancy—that that sum was made up of £80,000,000 for annuities and £20,000,000 for other things; that we have got rid of the annuities; and that we have got rid of the other debts for 50 per cent. of the claim.
The total amount of land stock issued in respect of annuities was £130,000,000 —land stock as distinct from debt. Of that, approximately one-fifth was due by Northern Ireland, leaving £104,000,000 worth of land stock as the responsibility of this country, or a claim at any rate, so far as the British Government was concerned, against us for that sum. Twenty-five per cent. of that was disposed of by the agreement which the present Prime Minister and his colleagues occasionally dignify by the name of the secret agreement, and which they know was as open as any agreement made between any two countries. If you take £26,000,000 off £104,000,000, you have £78,000,000 left; and £78,000,000 of stock is a very different thing from £78,000,000 worth of cash. The value of that when the dispute arose was about £50,000,000. I shall make it £60,000,000, if the Prime Minister wishes. What country in Europe to-day for a claim of that sort would not be delighted to get £20,000,000? How much did they get? £25,000,000 for five years in tariffs, and £10,000,000 afterwards. Mind you, they did well out of it.
However, that is not in dispute now; that is settled. Along with that £10,000,000, we have got this bill. It was remarkable how very lightly the items in this Estimate were glossed over. We had, first of all, reference to our dispute with Great Britain. Secondly, we got a review of the international situation. Next we were told we are going to seek to maintain our neutrality in the event of war, either now or in the future. Then we had an address to Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the great use we would be to Great Britain if this country were not divided. The division of this country is not the problem before us now; it is this Estimate. If, 17 years ago, there was as much sense on that side of the House as there is to-day, that problem would not be there.
We are asked by Ministers and Deputies on the opposite side to take this matter out of politics. Why? Whenever there is a baby to be carried, they always say: "Let us drop politics and share the baby". We have had descriptions of our sovereignty, of our independence, and of our citizenship. Of what value were these to those Irish refugees in Madrid in the last two or three years? Was our Minister there to succour them, or who looked after them?
Let us not be too proud, because human nature being what it is, mankind is dependent on the dictates of Christian charity. If a nation on the Continent or beside us succoured our people there, we ought to be glad of it; because it is a desperate thing during a civil war for refugees, not belonging to the nation in which the civil war is being waged, to have nobody from their own country, however proud it is of its sovereignty, to look after them.
What about sticking to the Estimate?
I can deal with some of the matters raised here. I can deal with the pride and the vanity which distinguishes this Estimate. I can deal in my own time with the items of it. We are told that there is a sum of £1,000,000 in it for aeroplanes, and £1,000,000 for anti-aircraft guns. Will some Minister or Deputy kindly point out to me the item in this Estimate which discloses that information? Unless I am entirely mistaken, I understood the Prime Minister to say there is £1,000,000 for aeroplanes and £1,000,000 for anti-aircraft guns. This is a matter in which we are led to believe that there was a dispute between members of the Executive Council regarding the Estimate. There are different opinions, we are told, on this side of the House; there are different opinions also on the Government side of the House, and so, possibly, on the Government side, there were different opinions as to whether this Estimate should be £5,000,000 or £20,000,000. Some of our warlike members want to make much of our authority and our sovereignty.
Perhaps, before we look at that particular Estimate, we might go back to a period within the last 12 months when we were told that one of the matters which compelled the Government to open up negotiations with the British Government was our defence problem. It was not the sufferings of the farmers, it was not the position of the cattle trade which the Government now contend is so vital to us; it was not the growing difficulty of balancing our Budgets, nor the difficulty of payments or of finance. We were told that at that time the thing that was necessary was to put this country into a state of preparedness to the tune of this item of £600,000, and that details and explanation and full information would be afforded to the House at a later date. We started out convinced that defence was the essential matter in this country in January, 1938. And in April, £600,000 is put down in the Estimate for extra munitions and guns, and for other equipment, to bring it up to the standard of a first-class Power in defending its country.
And where are we now? A week ago, if so long, we got this Supplementary Estimate in respect of that £600,000. And then it was found that that £600,000 was not necessary. All that was necessary apparently was £323,370. The big view that we had in January and in April has diminished almost by 50 per cent. And this is the up-to-date Ministry and this is the efficient Government. When they are not making political speeches they are totting up the amounts of the cost for purchase of aeroplanes, anti-aircraft guns, warlike equipment, and things of that sort. Is it likely that the people of this country are to be convinced that this is a competent and efficient Ministry when something like 12 or 13 months after the House is presented with proposals that they think are necessary, and the cost that is to be imposed upon the people of this country in order to put it into a position of preparedness in the event of war, we are given this Estimate?
We are now told that we are perfectly free to do anything we like. Now, most of us were under the impression that that was the position in this country for the last 17 years. But certain political Rip Van Winkles were not aware of that until recently. They had to learn it day by day. They at first started to tell the people that the economic policy that was pursued in this country was wrong, and secondly, that there was not a single item that the Executive Council of the day was considering that they were not considering from their own personal point of view solely, and that they were taking whatever action they took against the best interests of the country; that they had no national outlook; that their agricultural policy was wrong; that their industrial policy was wrong; that their trade with England was wrong and that there were other people all over the world with whom they could trade. Day after day in the last seven years we are finding that these programmes, policies and planks of theirs have all turned out to be wrong. We are getting back to the position which this country left off seven years ago. But the country is poorer to-day because of these things done in the last seven years.
The Minister told us that he had been buying more munitions during the last two or three years than had been bought in the time of his predecessors. On looking up the expenditure on the Army for the last six, or seven, or eight years, it will be found that it was round about £1,250,000 per annum until 1933-34 and 1934-35. Then it commenced to go up gradually until last year, when the expenditure was in the neighbourhood of almost £1,600,000. We are told now that the expenditure on the Army, according to the Estimate for the next year, is going to be up by £500,000. It depends on where you start from, whether it is £500,000 or £1,000,000.
Taking the ordinary expenditure for the average of the years 1929 down to 1932-33 the expenditure now is £1,000,000 per annum more than it was during that period. In addition to that we have a capital commitment amounting to a sum of over £4,000,000, and we are told that we can afford it. If that statement were made eight years ago from these benches it would be interesting to hear the number of shrieks that would come from the Fianna Fáil members. We would be told of the difficulties of the farmer, the industrialists, and so on. But now with our sterling balances diminishing and our bank balances going down we are able to afford it!
It would be a good job for the Ministry if they just toured around the country, went into the farmers' houses, went into the country towns and through them, went around to the people in the cities of Dublin and Cork and examined the position for themselves. Let them not mind the motorcars but go to the business houses and ask them how are they enjoying the extra taxation and the good business that is being done from one part of the country to the other. We are asked now by the people who made the Agreement last year taking from this legislative Assembly, from the Oireachtas, the right in quite a number of cases, in fact in any case which is decided by the Prices Commission to impose tariffs or keep on tariffs, to pass this Vote. We are asked by the people who told us that there were foreign markets waiting for our agricultural produce, by people who told us that they were going to beat the British economically, to accept their word with regard to this Estimate, which is costing this country £4,000,000 and £1,000,000 for the future— we are asked by these people who have been found out in every single matter before the public to take their word for it and leave politics out of this.
These are the people who now tell us of the difficulties affecting the country. They tell us at the moment what a blessed thing neutrality is and how difficult it is to maintain it. Assume for a moment that that is perfectly correct—that it is difficult to maintain it. Have we a friend in the world at the present time with whom we can be allied? On the Continent of Europe and outside it there are various combinations of countries, various associations, one or another adopted and schemed in the interests of the Government of those countries to maintain their supremacy or dominance, as the case may be, or their existence in other cases.
But we are going to be neutral. It will be difficult and it will be costly. From the purely material standpoint, nobody in this country would object to putting his last penny into its defence if he were satisfied that it was necessary and was going to be well spent. Can we, from what we have heard, from the general manner in which this has been treated for over 12 months, have that confidence in view of the way in which this Estimate has been presented to the House? We were told that we were to have it before Christmas but we had not. Then we were to have it directly we came back after Christmas. We were then asked not to consider it but to look at next year's. We have listened to three speeches in support of the Estimate. If we are to take them as being typical of the speeches made in Government Buildings when the Estimate was under consideration there how much attention was paid, I ask, to the precise details in the Estimate.
Let me take one item from it. The Volunteer force looms largely in this Estimate. Two or three years ago I put a question to the Minister: would he inform the House whether the setting up of this force was on the advice of the military experts, or whether it was Government policy. When he told me that he would not answer I knew at once that it was Government policy, and was not set up on the advice of the military experts. In the British time here they had an institution called the Militia. The Volunteers are very much the same as the Militia in that they get about one month's training in the year. Now, we are told at a time when we are asked to spend £4,000,000 down and £1,000,000 a year extra, that the defence of this country is to depend to a very large extent on militiamen who are called Volunteers. Now, let the Minister understand this, that I am not using that term in an offensive way.
Of course, not.
I did not interrupt the Prime Minister when he was speaking. He has not got the courage himself to stand the racket.
I have not said anything offensive like that of a body of men who are prepared to do their duty by the country.
Precisely. Look at the last page of the Estimate and see the Minister's own estimate of the utility or usefulness of this particular body. What do we find? "Deduct in respect of numbers being below strength." What is the meaning of that? The Estimate for last year was £95,000, and you are deducting £80,000 off that for "the numbers being below strength." In the light of what I have said, we are asked to consider this as a sensible Estimate. You put down £95,000 and all you expect to spend is £15,000. Is not that humbugging somebody?
That is like the Deputy's speech in Kilkenny.
What was the matter with it?
The Deputy had better throw his mind back.
Perhaps the Minister would assist me. Did I put it on a typist, or say that it was the typist's fault?
I do not know how the Deputy got out of it. He was not able to get out of it.
I would ask the Minister to look up his own advertisement in the election in Dublin in June, 1937. Let him look up that and see whether he put in it this: that if our programme were put into operation every working man employed by us would cost £600. There was just one nought over. I ask the Minister to stop this nonsense.
I did not put that on a typist.
There were two or three speeches from the other side and during their delivery I did not interrupt.
The person responsible for that mistake shouldered it.
Obviously I am getting under the skin of the Minister, but he should take his medicine.
Like the Deputy.
The Minister is the person who will come in here to tax his rich constituents to pay for this. He is going to tax them with his Revaluation Bill, but he will salt them with this and he should go out and tell them that.
The Deputy will.
What is the Estimate this year for the Volunteer Force? As I have said, when I asked a question I would not be told whether the setting up of it was part of Government policy, or whether it was done on the advice of the military experts. But we have here for it the sum of £126,000, off which we are to deduct £50,000—40 per cent. or almost half. In other words, we put down 100 men but we mean only 40. We are told there is to be £1,000,000 for aeroplanes. I would be very glad to be shown where it is. Those are the gentlemen who tell us that we are not to bring politics into this. Do they think that the unfortunate small farmers of the country will be able to take this Estimate, consider it and deal with it? We were elected here as well as the Government. We have our duties to our constituents as well as the Government. There are people on this side of the House who fought for this country as well as some of the members of the Government. This is money that our constituents will be called upon to pay if we vote it. Deputy Dr. O'Higgins has already pointed out that during the last six or seven years, since the present Government came into office, we have not voted against a Defence Estimate. This is not a Defence Estimate: this is extravagance, wild extravagance. This is an Estimate which has been hastily conceived and not fairly considered. On its face it should be rejected. We propose to vote against it.
The Taoiseach has complained of suspicions on this side. He has taken exception to certain criticisms that have been made here. The suspicions that arise on this side do not arise from the words that have been spoken from the Government Benches but from the silences that surround them. He told us that this was the first occasion upon which we were discussing in a free Parliament, defence problems. It is the first occasion upon which this House had occasion for a real debate on defence matters. The Army, such as it is at present, arose out of the internal circumstances of this country from 1922 on. From 1932, as has been pointed out, no opposition of any kind was placed in the way of the Government moulding and organising the Army. We did think that the Ministry, and particularly the Minister for Defence, had ideas with regard to the defence of this country, but these have been dissipated as we watched the circumstances year after year. The Estimate before us to-day is one that, we take it, is for the purpose of carrying out definite organisation here, of building up the Army on particular lines, and of dealing with practical problems for the defence of the country. We approach the discussion of the Estimate and examine the proposals that it implies from the point of view of responsible members of an Irish Parliament, examining proposals that are intended to be for the defence of this country.
The Minister's speech last night and the Minister's Estimate as placed before the House, the more we come to examine them and think over them the more impossible we find it to believe that he has any serious outlook on the defence of this country, and the more it is driven home to our minds that there is nothing in the proposals that have been put up here but bluff. Either we have, or we have not, defence problems in this country. The Taoiseach has emphasised that we had serious defence problems in this country that we could not organise for, or build up a proper defence machinery against, while Clauses 6 and 7 of the Treaty of 1921 were there. The impossibility of neutrality was sticking out of these clauses. These have gone now, but, in so far as either this Parliament or the people of the country as a whole can accept the Taoiseach as speaking with any sense of responsibility, he is the person, above all others, who has pointed out to them that, even in a more direct way than any things arising out of Clauses 6 and 7 of the Treaty, there does exist in our conditions to-day a threat to our neutrality that will, in his opinion, definitely involve us in a war if Britain is involved in a war.
I would ask you to refer to the sentence he spoke on the 29th April, 1938, column 437. "There is a vague notion about," the Taoiseach said, "which I can never understand, that somehow or other there will be a big war, and that we can continue supplying goods to Britain and that somehow we will come through unscathed." If words mean anything, either to this House to which they were spoken, or to the people of the country, then these words mean that if we continue to carry on the trade, which the Taoiseach admits to-night is vital to the economic existence of this country, with Great Britain, that we cannot come through unscathed. If these words are to be taken as meaning anything, then we are faced with this problem when we come to consider defence, that if Great Britain is engaged in war, we are going to be dragged into that war.
It has been pointed out that the Party that, as late as December, 1931, considered that the Army was there for the purpose of keeping down Republicans, Sinn Féiners and anybody else who did not agree with the policy of the Government, and that by removing the cause of the dissatisfaction among the people—that was the Oath—the cost of the Army could be reduced to £500,000, and that the police, a portion of whose work was of a political character, could be reduced and another £500,000 saved—that Party increased the Army Estimate for this country, as presented in the original Army Estimate of 1938-39, by one-third of what the Estimate was when they came in, that is, by £425,000, and increased the Guards Estimate by £347,000. At the end of this year, with the additional Supplementary Estimate that is before us, the Army Estimate will be increased by half of what it was when they came into office.
Everything, apparently, went smoothly on from the point of view of the address that members of the Government had to defence problems until September last. Then there was tremendous excitement. Every officer who could be spared was sent across to Great Britain to get aeroplanes and guns, or this, that and the other particular thing and, as a result, we have this Supplementary Estimate presented now. If we are to understand what the Minister for Finance spoke to us last night, that excitement has increased, and the danger of war to-day is greater even than it was in September.
We can only understand it that the danger of war here arises out of the possibility of Great Britain being involved in war. Nobody wants to emphasise to this House that the people have no unfriendly or hostile attitude to the people of any other country, racially, geographically, or in any other way. Their characteristics are such that they have not that. Neither is there any reason arising out of the type of policy that this country is pursuing, and anybody seriously thinking over defence problems here is definitely driven to the understanding that any threat of war to this country could only arise out of the foreign policy, say, of Great Britain, or the foreign policy of other countries directed against Great Britain.
In this, what I understand, and what the Taoiseach understands, to be the first real discussion on defence matters in this country, we ought to have heard something of the circumstances which dictate to us to have a defence policy. Either they were or were not justified in being in the unprepared condition in which they were in September last. I can find a justification for them being unprepared, but if I can find a justification for them being unprepared, then I cannot find a justification for them coming to this House with this additional Estimate after all the excitement of the last three months, and offering the country a bill such as they offer us to-day. They offer us a bill and tell us what they are going to do with the money, but they give no reason why such a bill should be presented.
An examination of the details of the bill and the way in which this money is going to be spent, conveys no impression to anybody that the machinery set up there is going to be of any use in dealing with the country's defences. The Taoiseach tells us the ground army is going to be the backbone and the basis of our defence. It is to be a striking army. A striking army against what? I can only infer from the references that the Taoiseach has made to the Border question, and to the attitude of some of our people towards Great Britain because of the Border question, that the ground army is intended here for internal purposes. If that is so, we ought to get some outline of what the conditions are so as to render a striking force, a ground army of that kind, necessary. If the striking force is intended to resist hostile invasion of any kind, we ought to be told what type of invasion that may be, and how the ground army is going to be used.
The Minister for Defence gave no suggestion last night as to the type of aggression against this country which he contemplated in setting out this scheme. The Taoiseach mentioned one possible way in which this country would be attacked, and that is that if we continued our trade with Great Britain our ports might be bombed. A serving military officer, writing in an important quarterly journal in this country, considers the various ways in which the country might be attacked by an outside Power. It could be attacked by 'planes coming for demolition purposes. It could be attacked by 'planes carrying large bodies of troops for the purpose of dumping them in this country in some corner which they might hope to hold for a short time. The third way in which it might be attacked would be bombardment by sea. Now, we can eliminate, here at any rate, if we have to consider the matter without evidence or information from the Government Benches, the idea that this country may be bombarded from the sea in a way that would jeopardise the control of our own people in this country. The other two possibilities are things that required to be considered.
It may appear fantastic that, in the article I speak of, it should be suggested that there was a possibility, however remote, that a European country might send large numbers of men by aeroplane to occupy some part, say, of the West of Ireland. We can accept the possibility that there may be some bombing of a city like Dublin but, in my opinion, the only possible weapon by which you can protect the country against that kind of invasion is by an air army, and not so much by anti-aircraft guns. Deputy Cosgrave has asked where in this Estimate is the £1,000,000 for aeroplanes about which the Taoiseach has spoken. We can find some information that would suggest that £1,000,000 is going to be spent on guns, but we have no idea of any kind of the problem that is really going to be met or how it is going to be met.
We have been told that up to date we had an Army of 21,000. That is not a fact. Deputy Cosgrave has pointed out that the Volunteer force that is included in the reckoning of the Army of to-day was actually deficient in numbers to such an extent that over the Estimate for the year only 15.8 of the Volunteer force could be accounted for.
Deputy Cosgrave got that figure out of the provisional Estimate which was circulated hurriedly in order to give Deputies some idea of what next year's Army would be. Unfortunately in typing in my office the figures £80,000 and £15,000 were transposed. Instead of appearing as £80,000 from £95,000, it should be £15,000 from £95,000, leaving £80,000 to be spent out of a total figure of £95,000.
Can I take it from the Minister that in respect of the year 1939-40 the figures may be similarly transposed?
What can I take from the information that is given before us? As far as the information that is given to us here is concerned, instead of there being 12,800 of a definite Volunteer Force, there were 2,000. Will the Minister tell the House how many of the 12,000 Volunteers were actually giving effective service in the Volunteers last year?
12,000 was the number estimated at the beginning of the year. We had about 9,200, some way or another.
So even on that basis—and I am not prepared to jump at acceptance of the Minister's figures in the way in which he is jumping to them now—we had not an Army of 21,000 at any rate. For the coming year, he told us, we are going to have an Army of 30,000 but according to the figures quoted here, whether we take it that £50,000 or £75,000 represents the numbers below strength, instead of there being 15,800 in the Volunteers, to build up the effective Army that the Minister speaks about to 30,000, there is going to be either only 9,500 or 6,300. Whatever way we take the figures, I challenge the statement of the Minister that we have to-day an Army of 21,000, or that the proposals that are before us suggest that we are going to have an Army of 30,000. In my opinion, that does not matter but what does matter is that, in facing this important subject of defence, the Minister should come before the House without any background to the case he is presenting to us and should present to us figures that apparently mean nothing.
We are of opinion that the amount which has been placed at the disposal of the Minister for Defence for the last three or four years is adequate to provide for the type of defence that this country wants at the present time, in the absence of any clear statement that the general condition is such that it would be difficult to provide adequate protection on that expenditure. The Taoiseach emphasised that the British had no idea of what was being proposed here. Have we any idea of what is proposed by the British, if our neutrality is not respected and if this country is attacked because we are supplying Great Britain with foodstuffs which the economic life of this country depends upon our selling, and which the economic and military life of Great Britain would depend upon their getting? If this is the sovereign state that the Taoiseach declares it is, and that we have declared here since 1922 that it is, why are we to go in blinkers in matters that are of vital importance to our people? I consider the plan that is put up here is either put up in futility or is put up in bluff.
There is another aspect of the case presented here, or rather a feature that is absent from the case presented here, that, to my mind, brands the whole policy of the Ministry in this matter as bluff. A very considerable percentage of the Minister's speech last night dealt with the elaborate precautions and arrangements that were going to be made to evacuate a certain part of the City of Dublin. We were told that elaborate hutments were to be provided and that plans were to be developed for the continuation of the education of children that were to be taken out of the city, but no word at all was said with regard to the arrangements that will have to be made, and the cost of such arrangements, for conserving for our own people here the food supplies of the country. We are to be excited about defence matters. We are to be excited about maintaining our exports of foodstuffs to Great Britain and the condition we find the country in is that our stocks of food are depleted in the country because of the way in which some of our live stock has been slaughtered during the last few years. Thousands of agricultural workers have been pushed off the land. Is it a matter of impossibility in our defence to get back our people to steady and regular work on the land? The last four years have sent 44,000 men off the land without counting the number of women. If anything were vital to the life of this country in a great European war, it would be the productive power of our people on the land.
The Minister for Defence, winding up the debate last night, asked us to put our trust in God and keep our powder dry. We have been put into the position by the Lord that we have very strong defences against outside aggression in the sea. On that sea, we have the strong defence of a British Navy. We are concerned with what we are going to do inside the defensive lines of the British Navy. One thing we could concentrate upon, and by which we would feel we were strengthening our defences, would be the development of our air arm. I suggest that the conditions that are likely to bring us into war have not been fully considered either by the Taoiseach or the Minister, that what I said a few months ago on the subject of defence is, unfortunately, too true—that the policy of the last five years has left us with an Army Headquarters Staff that has no clear outline of its defence problems, no defence policy or type of plan that could be handled for the defence of this country. The Minister is responsible for that and, behind him, the Taoiseach and the Government, generally, are responsible.
If we are to consider the defence problems of this country, we ought to be told what lines of British policy are going to involve us in war. We ought to get a clear picture of the type of interference we would be likely to have here, in the circumstances to which the Taoiseach referred, which would lead almost to the certainty of our neutrality not being respected. We should get a picture that this House could rely upon, as coming from a competent and thoughtful staff, of the type of defence machinery required to do the necessary defence work. All this Estimate discloses is that the money is to be spent in ways that are not going to give us any defence power. If it develops at all, it is going to have the effect of distracting our people from their work on the land and in industry, inducing uncertainty with regard to the future and gambles in which this country, after its experience of the last six years, cannot afford to indulge. The House has been treated in a most extraordinary way both by the Minister and the Taoiseach in presenting this bill. It is a bill for which no reason was given. It is a bill the examination of the details of which shows that the Government have no idea that can be called sound as to how the type of attack this country might expect to receive should be resisted.
I do not find it possible to agree with the phrase used by the Taoiseach to-night when he said that this was the first occasion in which this country as a free international unit could plan what it was going to do in face of a war. I can let the phrase about "the first time as a free international person" pass, and face up simply to the problem. War is a starkly real thing and, when it hits a country, it is a platitude to say that it makes no distinction between people of different ages or different sexes. In this country, we should also recognise that it makes no distinction between people of different political parties, and we should approach this matter in a realistic manner, with an appreciation of the situation as it is around us. This is surely one of the subjects in respect of which there is no necessity to drag in political slogans, and no necessity for An Taoiseach to feel that he has to fall back upon some of those old, tattered rags in which he used so valiantly to flaunt himself. Has this House got from any of the speeches made by those bringing forward this Estimate any statement which would lead anyone listening to those speaking here—and only to those—to believe that war is imminent? What did the Minister for Defence say? That the world we are living in at the moment is far from being a pacifist Utopia, that, possibly during the course of a major European war in which this country was not primarily involved, we might have to evacuate children from this city. Those were the only two occasions on which the Minister for Defence led the people, so far as his speech was going to do that, to an appreciation of the situation, bringing us nearer to the horrible truth everybody realises.
I am going to criticise this Estimate as being extravagant. I am going to criticise it on the ground that, even if we were wealthy enough to vote this money almost as a matter of indifference, the direction in which it is going to be spent is bad. I preface anything I am going to say in that respect by this—that unless it is spent within the next six months, the most of that money will not have to be spent or, if it be spent after the next six months, then it will be wastefully spent. We close our eyes in the Assembly of this country to the fact that war is growing. Read the speeches of people in different nations. See how the money market moves. Consider where movements are being made on the flanks of what used to be the old encircling Powers. There is not a bright spot anywhere. There is nothing but every omen, every sign, every tendency, pointing not merely to war, but to immediate war.
Surely, the Minister knows that. Surely the Minister, whether he takes the view I take of it or not, has some view as to whether war is likely to happen or not and, surely, he can tell us who are going to be the foremost contestants in that war. Why deal with this in a vacuum? Do we not know that there are two sets of Powers facing two other sets of Powers, each trying to get as many adherents as they can, each spending lavishly, each seeking to get whatever they can in the way of expanded territory or expanded personnel, and all facing up to an immediate and a widespread conflict? In this month of February, 1939, we are asked to face in any event to this, that we are going to spend £5,500,000 capital in preparation for war, and that we are going to raise our annual Army expenditure by £1,000,000 to the sum of about £2,250,000. We are doing that in February, 1939, not in a fumbling way as might have been done in September of last year, when for the first time the immediacy of war was realised. Have we any placing of the forces? Does the Minister, whether he thinks it politic to say it here or not, appreciate who the forces are and how they are ranged? Can he see any series of events likely to happen in which this country will have to take its stand on one side or the other? In April, 1938, the Taoiseach mentioned this matter. He was more of a realist then than he is now. Events have apparently moved against frankness. The Prime Minister did say in April of last year that he very definitely then contemplated a war in which Britain was going to be involved, and in which this country was definitely going to be involved on the side of Britain. Have we changed from that position?
What did I say?
I will read it. Have we changed from that position? Will the Taoiseach answer that first?
No. Read what I said.
Here it is:
"...if this country was taken by a European Power—if possession of our harbours and territory was taken— then Britain would be in a very parlous condition indeed. Britain, therefore, could not ignore that, and, in her own interests, and not for love of us, any more than anything that we would do would not be for love of Britain, but for ourselves—under these conditions Britain would have to do her utmost to prevent such an attack; so that, whether she willed it or not, the force of circumstances would make her an ally of ours in our defence. Therefore, in planning our defences to meet such an occasion, and in order that, in such a situation, the greatest possible strength should be behind this nation to defend its rights, the planning should take place on the basis that we wanted to have the combined forces as effective as possible."
That is right. I have nothing to detract from that.
Is there a word of that in this statement? Is Britain mentioned here as an ally? Is there any evidence in that that we are facing up to this problem? If war is imminent at this moment, does not everybody know Britain is going to be in it? We are going to be an ally with Britain in defence. But we are told we may be neutral. On April 29th, An Taoiseach had views on that. On being asked by Deputy Dillon whether he thought that, if we continued to send foodstuffs to Great Britain in time of war, it would be folly to pretend we could maintain our neutrality, his answer was:
"I fear that it would be so, in fact. The truth is, of course, that in modern war there is not any neutrality. During the war, trade from one neutral country to another was stopped or interfered with by the belligerents on both sides. Food is, I think, conditional contraband,
—that was the phrase which was used to-night—
according to the conventions. But, again, these conventions are not worth a scrap of paper once war appears. Obviously, to get down to bedrock, we had to clear the decks and see what we were about."
And that was that if this country was going to send footstuffs to Britain in time of war, then neutrality is gone. That is a frank statement. Why was it not repeated to-night?
I have said nothing to-night in any way inconsistent with that statement.
No, but there had to be this contrast drawn, that of course if the old Treaty situation lasted then neutrality could not be preserved. But there is a new situation now. Neutrality again cannot be preserved, but the breach in our neutrality originally would be because of the clauses in the Treaty, while the breach now is because we are going to send foodstuffs to Great Britain. What is the difference?
It is considerable.
In fact, what is the difference?
I am not going to argue with the Deputy.
I think it is not worth arguing this point, but let me say this about it: We were always told that the document which gave Britain certain facilities in time of war in our harbours was one that was based upon a threat of war; that it was a document imposed upon us by duress, and the people who had that imposed upon them by duress were not easy under that particular burden. Would that have weight with an enemy who might be looking towards Britain, and thinking of Britain as a hostile force? Would they have said: "Here are those Irish. Their ports are under Great Britain, but not by their own free will. There is the badge of their inferiority. They do not like that yoke. We may have them as our allies. We do not necessarily break Irish neutrality because there are a few British care and maintenance parties in certain ports." Let them read the speeches that were made here, and that were made in England at the time the Agreement was signed. What was the prevailing sentiment in England? It was: "Better far to give over those ports and have a friendly Ireland." I agree, and so did An Taoiseach then. But look at that through the eyes of the foreigner. There is Ireland, no longer a nation held down, now free, now friendly to Britain, and her foodstuffs pouring out across the seas. And the Taoiseach can come under those circumstances and prate here about neutrality. Again, let us be realists. There is no such thing as neutrality in the next war, as far as this country is concerned. There may be no declaration of war, but willy-nilly this country is going to be dragged in, and I do not believe even the policy which I heard preached fatuously through the country by minor groups— that this country should confine itself to sending over only a minimum amount of foodstuffs—would preserve us once war broke out. So war, I am taking as my premise, threatens. I believe it threatens near at hand, and in that war we are not going to be neutral. We will not be allowed to be neutral. If, in April of last year, the Taoiseach contemplated that we were going to make the defences, the combined forces, as effective as possible, can we have it stated now whether that is still the policy?
In the circumstances indicated by the Deputy, yes.
Can the Taoiseach not say without reserve whether we are aiming to have our forces, combined with the British forces for the defence of the islands, as effective as possible?
If we are attacked, yes.
Is there a notion that we will not be attacked?
It is possible.
Let me read what was said on April 29th:
"There is a vague notion about, which I can never understand, that somehow or other there will be a big war and that we can continue supplying goods to Great Britain and that somehow we will come through that unscathed."
A notion the Taoiseach could not understand! Has he that notion now? Let us advance another stage.
Might I say that if, in a matter of this sort, a Deputy takes an isolated statement from a speech, in answer to an interruption, and tries to make that the basis of national policy, I think it is wrong. The implications there are quite clear and definite and, if my statements are taken as a whole, they are not in any way different from the statements I made this evening.
I shall give the Taoiseach that volume, if he cannot read it from there. There was no interruption down to that point.
The point obviously is this, that people were thinking we could, of our own will and desire, be sure to be allowed to maintain our neutrality. I wanted to dissipate that notion. It is quite possible the exact phrase I used there does not cover that. That was clearly the intention.
In any event, it is fairly clear there will be some minor reservation that the Taoiseach can quote to the House hereafter. Let him have it.
No. If I stand up here, as I occasionally have to do, is a phrase to be taken and its meaning strained so that, in a matter of larger national policy, it is to be regarded as the real view? I think my speeches should be taken as a whole and in their general context, and I mean to stand by them.
I do not propose to read the whole of that speech, but I have quoted one piece at column 427 about the combined forces. At an earlier point, there is a phrase about "slithering out", and I have also quoted from column 437. The last quotation on page 437 was almost without interruption.
All I can say is that anyone who reads my speeches then, and what I said to-night, will find no contradiction. I have nothing to add to, or to subtract from, what I said.
I do not say that there is contradiction, but I think the Taoiseach has not been as clear to-night as he was in April. I want to find out if the April mood prevails now, or if not, if there is anything in the circumstances to herald a change.
I can only say that there is no change.
We are now moving to the point that this impoverished country is to spend £5,000,000 of capital moneys on warlike preparations, and to contemplate spending, for years to come, £2,250,000 a year with the belief that somewhere there is going to be a war and that, in that war or in any war that is likely to break out, England is definitely going to be a participant. I want to see where are we placed in that regard. Apart from the quotations, I take the view that the speech made by the Taoiseach in April, and not contradicted, but not fully backed up to-night, means that provision has to be made for the combined forces of ourselves and England to work together effectively for the defence of these islands.
If we are attacked.
And it is a foolish notion that we can send provisions to England and not be attacked. Why quibble about this? Now, we have the Six County situation to reckon with. If we are in any sort of combination— I suppose the word "alliance" cannot be mentioned even with bated breath— politics do not allow it—but inside the Department of Defence, possibly men talk freely—where, supposing we had some arrangement with Britain about the defence of these islands, does the Six Counties position come in? No matter what may be said about the Boundary situation in time of peace, and no matter what may be said as to how hard it presses upon people in the way of trade and commerce, surely, if war comes, there will be unity of command? Where do we get it? Who is to be the commander? Are there any arrangements with regard to that? Are we still to turn our backs on the Six Counties? Is a telephone message to come from Portadown telling Dublin what they are doing and perhaps asking Dublin, if it wishes to follow suit, or to do something different? Is it possible to think of any plan for the defence of the Twenty-Six Counties in time of war that does not include some plan for the Six Counties? If it has been thought out, can we, at least, get an assurance that contact has been made, so that we are not going to have that absurdity of the Twenty-Six Counties being defended by some one in control in that area, and the Six Counties defence being completely separate? I merely refer to that situation to show how ludicrous it is.
We are going to spend money on these most valuable prizes that we gained at the time of the Agreement—the forts. What is going to be spent on the forts and for what? Are the forts going to be defended by land artillery? Are the guns mounted on the forts capable of outranging battleships? If so, how many have we, or how many are we to get? What did they cost individually? Who will man them? Where will we get ammunition for them? Is it proposed that we should defend these forts in that way? I thought that we had abandoned that idea long ago. I thought the Taoiseach had abandoned that in April, 1938. Speaking of the ports and the forts he said:—
"I would not take the ports if the British suggested we should put our flag upon them and at the same time agree that, at any time the British wanted them, they could have them. I would say: `No; if you take or intend to take the ports, you will have to bear the cost of their upkeep, and if you say that, of necessity, our interests will be parallel with yours in some of the cases in which you apprehend danger, then it would be very much better to work on that basis than to work on scraps of paper'."
Are we going to work on that basis? Surely we have realised that our interests do run parallel with theirs in the circumstances that we immediately apprehend. Would it not be better to have this matter cleared up before imposing on our impoverished people the burden of properly defending these places?
Would it not be far better to have our liaisons openly with Britain and say to them: "Bear the cost of the upkeep and if, of necessity, our road is on a parallel to yours in certain of these cases which we apprehend, work on that basis, rather than on the old basis of the scraps of paper"? But, has the Minister said that that is going to be done? Has the Minister told us that, in anything, there is any touch with Britain? Is it seriously contemplated that these places can be defended by us? Speaking of personnel, it may be that that can be claimed, although I doubt it. I am not even speaking of material. It may be that we have both. I doubt it. But is it contemplated that we can bear the expenditure that will be necessary to put these places into a proper state of defence and to keep up that defence? These ports were talked of at the time of the Agreement. There are two things we should remember, spoken by reputable people on the other side in regard to that Agreement. The not very gracious way in which the Prime Minister of England introduced the Agreement to his House of Commons was—he said that it had to be remembered that the measures they had taken were fast impoverishing a people whom they still wanted to have as a customer of theirs. Let us remind him of that phrase. This is in relation to Britain, and we need not have any shame about confessing we are an impoverished people, who were not able to bend their backs to the burden they put on them.
We know well that these forts mean very little to our defence, but they mean a great deal to the defence of what used to be called the United Kingdom. That was quite clearly before the mass of the people when the Agreement of last year was accepted. It was debated in the House of Commons, but it was debated with much more lucidity in the House of Lords, and the statement that was used xin regard to these forts was this—I quote from memory—that they were the finest anchorages in the world, capable of accommodating even the greatest of fleets, and of immense strategic importance as far as the trade routes to America were concerned.
Now, what fleets are going to be accommodated in these ports, if any? Is the strategic importance of these places on the routes to America of importance to us or of more importance to Great Britain? What do we want with these places as anchorages? I remember a comment made on one occasion by a man who wrote to one of the papers saying that when he opened his wardrobe door he found a moth in his dress-coat, and said the situation was ludicrous as the coat was far too big for the moth. Think of our two boats, and both of them going round to the finest anchorages in the world. I think they are in the same position as the moth in the dress-coat. Their position is just as ludicrous. Is it not realised that, if these ports are being kept, if they have any value—and they have —it is not for any boats that we can put into them? They are a valuable asset, and they are an asset of amazing importance if one is really considering this country as bound up in any war that is to come with the fortunes of England. What is the use that is going to be made of those places? No proper use can be made of them if we are going to attempt the use of them alone. The use of them will entail expenditure, and the use will entail more than that —it will entail definitely, completely and entirely the giving up of this pretence about neutrality, which I think we have already given up. Would it not be far better to face the realities of the situation, and to admit that these places have a value, but that that value cannot be exploited by ourselves, but only if we work in conjunction with the people to whom they are of value. Is it not time we stopped all this political nonsense, let reality pervade the situation, and let it become apparent that this miserable expenditure— because it is miserable in relation to what is at stake—this sum of £33,000 put down here with regard to some item of these ports, will not give either this country the defence it needs, or will not give that other country, from which, no doubt, we look to get our defence, the proper use of these places.
What prevents a frank admission of the value of these places? What prevents an equally frank recognition of the use that is likely to be made of them and the use that ought to be made of them, if we are serious in our belief that our fate, willy-nilly, is going to be linked with Great Britain and that we want to come through? What use was made of those places in the last war? That was also discussed at the time the Agreement was under discussion in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. We were told of the number of destroyers that had their base off Cork and the number of destroyers that were based elsewhere. We had statements made in England that, if the naval bases were no longer to be located in, or could not be extended to Cork or Bantry or these other places, that it added 200 miles in one and 400 miles in the other to the striking range of the fleet. Do we not know well that the great use that was made of these places was for the refitting of battleships, and do we not know that by far the greatest use made of them was as the first point of refuge for the convoys that came across the seas? I think we must say one or the other thing—that that use is going to be prohibited, that we will not allow battleships to use these places; we will not allow them to be the first point of refuge for convoys that come across the seas; we will not allow a striking fleet to be based upon them. We must say that or we must say we take completely the other point of view, not for love of England, but because circumstances have just so willed it at this present moment. We see a war coming. We see England involved in it. We see ourselves dragged into that, whether we like it or not, and that the security of both countries depends upon the use of that very valuable asset. We cannot pay for the use and it is not right it should be imposed upon this impoverished country. We see England lending £10,000,000 to Turkey for ammunitions, a first £10,000,000 to Czechoslovakia and a recent further application for, I think it was, the sum of £8,000,000, and we know that, secretly, moneys are pouring out in all directions in which England considers that money will be well spent for her defence purposes. That is being done without there being the slightest commitment in the way of prejudicing the nationalities or lowering the status of any of the countries that take these moneys. Common prudence makes these people take the money. Are we going to be bereft of common prudence in the circumstances that are towards us?
Again, the White Paper is completely vapid as far as these matters are concerned. As far as the Paper is concerned, there appears to be no appreciation of these facts. I do not believe that the Paper speaks for defence in that matter. I cannot conceive that there is any human being interested, apart from professional interest, as a military person, in international matters at this moment who could present such a document as that, if it had not been, I should say, written first of all by somebody who knew the situation and then fine-combed it for fear any phrase might still lurk in it that would indicate that this country had any alliance in defence with Great Britain. Whoever did that, did his job well. The result is that it leaves a document that is no reflection of the situation and does not lead the people here to a proper appreciation of the matter. The lesson that there is in this is that we are going to make great preparations in connection with the air and that it is divided into two parts. We are going to be ready to fight—that is the military side—and we are going to be ready to protect, as far as the civilians are concerned. I, frankly, do not understand certain points that are mixed up in this Estimate. It seems to me that there is a mere connotation there but I can see no logical connection. I would like to have some explanation, no matter how discreet it is, hereafter, as to what this country wants with a mine-sweeping service. Mine-laying, I could understand, but mine-sweeping, in the circumstances of this country, is somewhat difficult to understand as a point that is emphasised.
We are going to have something in the way of aircraft. I said at the beginning that we were discussing a proposal to have a capital expenditure of £5,500,000 and an annual expenditure of £2,250,000 for some undefined period. We are discussing a great deal more than that. For six years, the present Minister for Defence has had sums voted to him, ranging from about £1,200,000 to about £1,500,000. He has had about £7,000,000 to £9,000,000 at his disposal in the years before we came to this. That was peace-time. There has been a slight tendency to wartimes in the last two or three years. There was sufficient tendency and inclination to war to make a vigilant Minister for Defence think about the character of his forces. There is a fashion in these things, as science creates further powers of devastation. I would have expected the Minister not to be coming in here and saying about the rapid expansion that was going to take place, or the change over that was going to take place shortly. For at least two years past, if not for three years past, the Minister had warning from outside affairs and the practice of other countries, that a definite change was required in the character of his armed forces. Did he appreciate that? Did the change take place, and to what extent? We are going to have now a rapid expansion. Look at the situation we have, confessedly, in this White Paper, that it depends on personnel and material—and we do not know whether we can get the material. It is a pity we had not thought of that earlier. I know it was thought of a little earlier.
There was a crisis in Europe in September, but it was nothing like the crisis there was in Army Headquarters about the same time, and whatever may be the close-fistedness of the Minister for Finance at ordinary times, I think the fist was definitely screwed open, but I should like to know what was the character of the expenditure that was incurred about that time, and whether it was money usefully spent. However, if we can get the material, we will have an increase in our Air Force, and, in so far as this White Paper says that we are going to aim at an Air Force consisting of planes for the interception of bombing raiders and for reconnaissance and coastal patrol, nobody can pass any comment on it, except to say that we would be glad of further and fuller details. It is only when these details are given and more clearly expressed to the people that there can be any belief in the preparations that are being made.
In the end, we are to have air-raid precautionary measures, and here, I think, the Ministry has definitely taken leave of whatever little sense was left to it after last September. That part of the White Paper which deals with air-raid precautions could have been written by anybody who was reading the English newspapers and who had read the English handbook. It is altogether on the English scale. I have yet to find out what is the emergency, in a major war in which we are not going to be involved, which will lead to the evacuation of the children of this city and the continuance of their education somewhere possibly west of the Shannon. Is there anything in this document except slavish imitation of what is being done elsewhere? There has been no justification of it attempted here and I should like to hear if any justification can be given.
I said at the beginning that people are going to be dissatisfied with this Estimate on two grounds, firstly, that it did not face realities and, secondly, that, in certain aspects, the Estimate is overloaded. There is an expenditure which, without great persuasion, would certainly be an extravagance for these people to accept; there is a diversion of money to certain quarters from which no use can come; and there has not been an early enough appreciation of the necessity for an increase in the air strength. We get this thrown at us now in February of this year. A sum of £5,500,000 is projected as a capital expenditure, and we are told in a slick phrase that it will be spent as quickly as possible, but we have the four-wheel brakes put on that expenditure by the statement afterwards that a lot of it is to be spent on material, and we do not know whether we can get the material. Can we be told, first, where do we intend to try to get it? Can the country be named? Has any investigation already been set on foot to see what, and when, supplies may come to this country? Will we be depriving other people, who may make better use of the material, being nearer to the theatre of war than we will, if we take supplies from them? Is there any far, remote country, not likely immediately to be concerned in a war, from which we can get supplies? Where do we propose to buy? Is there any scheme in the Minister's Department for the spending of the money?
As I read this document, I take it that we would spend the whole £5,000,000 in the next month if we could get it properly spent, but I may be wrong in that. Is there a scheme for the spacing out of this? What have we as to the amount of money that ought to be spent for our immediately vital requirements, and where do we propose to look for the material? So far as personnel is concerned, the Minister is optimistic. We are going to raise the Army to a certain strength. I test that by one point. Partly due to the taking over of the forts, but partly due to the international situation—and think hard of the crisis of last September—the Army in this country underwent a remarkable growth. We got on 17 officers and 500 men extra. If a crisis like that of last September can bring about a speeding up in the Army of only 17 officers, the Minister's optimism about the new Army of so many thousands which he is going to get is sadly misplaced.
It seems to me that the Estimate reveals this—and I believe the disheartening proof of it will be apparent to the public quite soon—that if war is not staved off longer than three months from now, this country will get a ghastly revelation, because we will not have been able to get much inside the next three months and we will see how much of what the Minister has written here is truth and accuracy, and how much of it is what has already been described as bluff and an attempt to cover up deficiencies and his neglect in regard to his Department in the last six years. If war were to break out now, or somewhere in the next three months, this country would be in the position that it would save the money, but would lose quite an amount in the way of personnel. As the expenditure is projected at the moment, it would be well worth saving the money and this country would not come to any great harm, but if the safeguard of the population is in the Department of Defence, some sum of money, the amount of money annually spent on the Army with some slight addition, can be usefully spent. This White Paper, however, does not give any sign that the proper direction has been appreciated. I do not believe there is anything in that White Paper, except an attempt to hide deficiencies and defects, and, by pretence and bluff, to try to save from exposure a situation which, if known, would shock the people because we are so completely and entirely unprepared.
I have very little to say on this Estimate, but I think I should properly voice the horror with which it will be received in the poorer parts of the country. It is an Estimate which transcends anything of the kind that has hitherto come before us, and it transcends it, not so much for what it actually contains, but for what I consider the very serious and grave implications that are in it with regard to future expenditure. Figures have been mentioned here to-night running from £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 up to £7,000,000, and some Deputies did not stop at £9,000,000 in regard to the burden that was going to fall on the people in connection with the Estimate.
A consideration of the Estimate brings back to my mind a phrase that was used with regard to European affairs in connection with a people's choice some time ago. I think the phrase was, "Guns or butter." The Germans were told if they wanted guns they would have to do without butter. So far as this country is concerned, and so far as the serious matter of its defence is concerned, I think it would be better for us if we devoted more attention to butter, and ceased to play so much with guns, because this Estimate is really playing with a very serious question. It is approached from what I consider to be a very wrong angle, and without regard for the facts of the situation that prevails in Europe to-day. We have had references to neutrality, a matter which has been discussed and exploded to a great extent by Deputy McGilligan, and I might also mention that the Taoiseach has said that neutrality is something which it would be impossible for us to maintain in the event of any European war. Still there are people in this country who hold that it would be possible for this country not to intervene in a European war, and to maintain a position of strict neutrality. I heard a very prominent Republican some months ago giving a lecture on Ireland's attitude in the next war, and he held that we should strictly maintain and affirm neutrality, but at the same time show that our sympathies were with any enemies of England, and, again, that if England wanted any foodstuffs or commodities from us during a war, we should supply her with them, but only at the highest possible price we could extract. That was a beautiful picture of neutrality and of the conditions of affairs in such a war.
The Minister has mentioned in the White Paper certain things that are not in the Estimate proper, and there are things in the Estimate itself which are not in the White Paper. For instance, I see an item here with regard to the winding of clocks, £60. I do not know whether that means that the soldiers cannot wind their own clocks. There is also an item of £100 for trees which, I am sure, would gladden the heart of Deputy Dowdall if he were here. I suppose the clocks will be wound up in order to prepare us for the zero hour when we will all be going over the top for Irish independence. There are other items that are not explained at all, such as coast watching, coastal defence and mine sweeping. These are three very important items and they certainly will be three very expensive items, but I do not think the Minister told us, in any part of the Estimate, what they are going to cost or how the mine sweeping or coast watching is going to be carried on. At all events, I feel that it would be impossible for us, in view of the grave crisis in which we find ourselves and the general trend that things are taking, to avoid being implicated and very seriously and, particularly, early implicated in the next European war. I think we need have no doubt whatever as to how the next European war is going to go. In my opinion, it will be a war between two different systems of government, the dictatorial form of government and the form of government which still prevails in some countries and is known as the democratic system of government—that is, an alliance between England, or the British Isles as they call themselves, and Ireland and America, as against the Fascist or dictatorial powers in Europe.
If you look at the map you will see that nobody is going to attack us. We have no enemy in the world and our attitude in the next war cannot be guided to any extent by the attitude we took up in the last war. In the last war, Ireland, or at all events, nationalist Ireland, was very largely pro-German, but conditions were very different then and we had not achieved our independence. Annsan bhíomar fé smacht na Sasanach, acht tá a mhailirt de scéul againn anois.
We have achieved a certain amount of freedom from what the Taoiseach called at one time economic servitude. In fact, we are faced with the situation that not only is a strong England our friend, but the only guarantee that we have of the independence we enjoy to-day is the strength of Britain. We must face up to that fact in connection with the next war. Now, there is one point I want to emphasise. We took over certain forts here, which were worth nothing in themselves, and we took over the harbours connected with them, which are very good bases for naval craft. We are not in a position to use these bases, since we have not a ship of any sort. I saw a reference here to three vessels, and I thought that these were the vessels the Minister had in mind with regard to mine-sweeping, but what are they? They are three ferry boats that run between these ports and the mainland, and they are very seriously put down as costing £7,000. They are just ferry boats, and they should cost the same about as the Muirchu or the Fort Rannoch, and if a gun were to be placed on one of these boats, I am sure the first discharge of the gun would smash the boat to pieces. As I say, we have not a navy, nor can we have a navy, seeing that one battleship alone costs something like £9,000,000, and yet we have been talking here the whole day about defending the shores of Ireland when any defence we would have must be either aerial or naval defence. Infantry, artillery, and so on, will be only of use once an enemy lands on our shores, and that, as was pointed out, can only happen when the last British ship is gone. Our only safety is that we are behind the British Navy.
The Taoiseach read out certain percentages with regard to other small nations as compared with ours, but he did not realise that those people have not the British Navy to protect them, nor would it be in England's interest to protect them, as it would be in her own best interests to protect us. Look at the map again. England has got to depend for her food supplies and raw materials in the next war from across the seas, from North America, South America, and so on. She must keep her bread routes open. These bread routes pass our very doors—they must come past Bantry Bay or Loch Swilly, and so on, and England must keep these routes open. It need not cost us anything for our defence, because, if any foreigner can interfere sufficiently with the free passage of England's bread, then England is finished.
It was suggested here to-night that Belgium, by her short stoppage of Germany at the beginning of the last war, lost the war to Germany. There may be a difference of opinion about that, but it is certainly a fact that at one period in the last war, England very nearly lost it, and she did not nearly lose it in France or at the first march to Paris. She nearly lost it between the Old Head of Kinsale and a point 60 miles west of the Fastnet. That was at the time of the U.-boat activities. England nearly had her throat cut by the U-boat activity and anybody who has read the book "The Danger Zone", by Chatterton, will realise the amount of tonnage—food and supplies of all sorts—that went to the bottom of the sea between the points I have mentioned. England will take good care that that will not happen again. She will be prepared for it and I suggest to the Taoiseach that, in this critical period, the proper policy for him to pursue is to go over to England and come to some understanding there in the matter of defence. The Taoiseach went over before to England and made a settlement in regard to other matters, and I think he should go over now in connection with defence.
There is nothing in that White Paper except a lot of indiscriminate expenditure without showing us to what uses this money will be put. I think this Estimate ought to be put back. At all events, it certainly will not recommend itself to me and, I think, neither will it recommend itself to the House. A burden of £9,000,000 at its maximum or of £5,000,000 at its minimum is a burden that our people cannot bear. I once heard a man say that he would rather die than be kept alive by a certain type of medicine that he had to take. Well, this expenditure is too much and is too great a burden for our people and, if we are to be crushed out by too much taxation, we might as well wait for the enemy to come along.
I agree that we should do something to protect ourselves at our own doorstep, but I think that a big system of defence for our shores is beyond our powers. In my opinion, that will be done by only one Power and I believe that we should try to see if any arrangement can be come to with England with regard to defence. I do not know whether that will recommend itself to the Taoiseach as being national or dignified, but we must look at the facts—that we depend on England controlling the seas and the air in the western part of Europe. That is a fact that you cannot get away from.
I think the expenditure put before us to-night is very indiscriminate—a badly planned scheme, if there is a scheme at all behind it. I think the only effective way is that which I pointed out—that we must have an understanding with England for the protection of ourselves and of our trade. The Taoiseach has said that we cannot live without England; and the Minister for Finance has said that we have no market but England. The whole future existence of our country depends upon carrying on trade with England. That would be more necessary even in time of war; and when we send something to England on an English boat, with an English flag, our neutrality is gone. We are in the war whether we like it or not; we are with England. Let us make up our minds that in the next war England's interest is our interest. That is a big change from the time when England's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity. Things have changed since then; the world has advanced. The Taoiseach and the Ministers have changed, I will not say in national outlook, but with regard to the common facts of progress and of life which affect us all. For the preservation of our people, the peace of our people, and the protection of our trade and of the country, I think this policy which I have outlined is the proper one for the Taoiseach and the Ministers to take.
This debate, so far as I can see, has run along two lines, two parallel lines if you like. One was, that this Estimate was extravagant; and the other was, that the money was being spent in the wrong direction. The Taoiseach pointed out what other countries were spending in 1938 on defence. He instanced a number of small countries, such as Belgium, Portugal, Sweden and Denmark, that, like ourselves, do not want to be involved in any war, and he showed that in 1938 every one of these was spending very much more of its national revenue for national defence purposes than we were ourselves. For last year the Taoiseach gave a figure of 5 per cent. of our national income for our defence expenditure. We were spending last year around 5 per cent. or so of our national revenue on defence. Sweden was spending 20 per cent., Finland 25 per cent., and Portugal 26 per cent.
As Minister for Defence, I pointed out to the Dáil on several occasions during the last few years that I was not satisfied with the amount of money that we were spending for defence. If Deputies look up my speech on the Army Estimates for 1934-5, they will see I was not satisfied. Even then we were making a net increase on the previous year and that sum was being utilised mainly for providing technical courses and equipment for all corps and services of the Army. In 1935-6, I was also justifying an increase, and I said it was being used for the purchasing of war material. In 1936-7 it was the same story. Last year I pointed out that from 1932 we had increased the expenditure on warlike stores from 5 per cent. of our total Army Vote to 12½ per cent.
We were following very far behind other countries that were spending four times as much, relatively, on war material as we were. The Taoiseach pointed out one of the reasons for it when he told the Dáil in April last year that one of the principal reasons for his taking the initiative to end the economic war and the unfriendly relations with England was in order to see whether the situation could be cleared up and if we could not get rid of Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty. I do not believe that the sum we propose to expend is extravagant.
Deputy McGilligan accused me of having introduced this Estimate as if we were living in a vacuum. We are not living in a vacuum. I had no need to describe the situation in Europe to Deputies, or to take up their time telling them what they know as well as I do myself. We are not living in a vacuum; we are living in Europe in this year of Our Lord 1939. Deputies know the situation in Europe as well as I do.
The Government are proposing, first of all, to increase the annual expenditure on the Army and to spend the sum of £5,500,000 on capital equipment, not in a vacuum, but in the condition of Europe in this year of Our Lord 1939. I do not think that any fair-minded man can say that the Government is extravagant in the amount of money that it proposes to spend in these Estimates. As I said in my opening speech, I am quite willing to admit that I would prefer very much to see this money being spent on social and economic development.
But if we do not spend something for insurance it may happen that somebody else will be taking charge of our social and economic development, and, if they do, it will be for their benefit and not for the benefit of the people of Ireland. It is in order to ensure, if we can, that our people will continue to govern themselves in their own interest that we are asking the people to spend a fair amount of our national wealth in building up our defences. If we think anything at all of the independence we have, if we want to control the country for our own use and benefit, we have to make some little sacrifice of time, money and energy in order to defend it.
Let us look at what European countries are spending and remember that countries such as Switzerland think it worth while to spend up to 20 per cent. of their national income. Switzerland in 1938 spent 20 per cent. of its national income for defence purposes; but, in addition to that, it has during the last few years spent on capital equipment a sum amounting to twice its national income.
Over a number of years, as far as we can discover, they spent a sum of £50,000,000 on capital equipment and their annual revenue is £23,000,000. So they spent well over twice their annual revenue on capital equipment. In addition, they are spending each year on defence 20 per cent. of their national revenue.
We are proposing to raise our Army expenditure to something around 7½ per cent. of our State revenue here and spend £5,500,000 on capital equipment, which would be only about one-sixth of our national revenue. If we were going to spend a sum of money relatively as large as the Swiss are doing we would be spending £60,000,000 on capital development instead of £5,500,000. I am quoting you these figures to show what people in Central Europe are being forced to spend on their armaments. I certainly would not wish to see our people in the same situation as the people in Europe to-day. But the Government is doing the very minimum that it is its duty to do, in order to see that people here will have protection in case a European war should threaten us in this country. It has been said that it might be all very well to spend that sum of money if it were spent in the proper direction.
We have had a lot of military experts getting up here and telling us how the money should be spent. I do not pro fess to be an expert, nor to be a prophet. I would like anybody here to prophesy to me that there can be no ground invasion of this country. I would even like them to prophesy that there could be no ground invasion of this country even if we were protected by the British Navy or the British Air Forces. We have all seen published recently the story of certain manoeuvres that have taken place. It was seen from the air manoeuvres held recently on the Continent that the raiding forces got through the fighting forces, though the fighting forces knew the day and the hour and the direction from which the bombers were to come. Deputy McGilligan spoke about air invasion, and he said it sounded fantastic. He alluded to an article which showed how 10,000 men were moved and dropped behind the lines, not alone with rifles, but with tanks and with artillery. It may sound fantastic, but we may have an air invasion of that very kind here.
I want, Sir, to put a question to the Minister.
The Deputy will please sit down.
I only wanted to ask——
The Deputy will please take his seat.
I am sorry. I only wanted just to say one word.
Aeroplanes were only mentioned in fairy stories 30 years ago but we know to-day that the aeroplane can circle the world in four or five days. The submarine certainly did not appear outside a fairy story 50 years ago. Yet, to-day it can circle the world under the surface of the water and need only come up occasionally for air. I am not sufficient of a prophet to say that though this country were protected by the whole British Navy no troops could get through here from a Continental Power. I am not sufficient of a prophet to say that such troops could not land here and create a great deal of havoc and destruction if not opposed.
I think that our first and most urgent line of defence, that our most urgent work, is the equipment of an Army that will be able to defeat the invading forces, were they to set foot here on our shores. I believe the only way that such an invading force could be overcome is by ground forces with a better equipment than the invading forces. If people say that we should try to repel such invasion by fighting planes, I simply say that I do not believe that fighting planes alone could stop them if we had no ground Army.
Fighting planes could not prevent such a force from landing and certainly once they had landed, even though we had 1,000,000 planes, we could not stop 4,000 or 5,000 men, taking the usual military precautions, walking through this country and destroying anything they liked unless they were met and defeated by forces that had their feet on the soil. The aeroplane has no means whatever of stopping an advancing land force. It it therefore foolish to say, in our circumstances, in order to prevent invasion by air forces, that we should rely altogether on fighting planes.
I believe that the first thing that we should look after is putting ourselves in the position of defeating any invading force which would land here, whether that force comes from the air or from sea or under the sea. Although I say that we cannot rely altogether on air forces we have not neglected the air arm. I believe in having a threat from the air against any bombers that might reach our shores. I believe also in having a threat from the ground that if they attempted to bomb our cities or vital areas, they are very liable to get hit. But I cannot at all assure the people of Dublin or the people of Cork or any other town in Ireland, that if I had every man in Ireland trained as a pilot or as an anti-aircraft gunner, and had all the machines and guns for each of these, we could save the people of Dublin from casualties unless they had done some preparation themselves. The people in England are not exactly in the same position as we are. They have greater sources of wealth than we have. Yet they are anxious because they know they would suffer severe casualties if the city populations were not trained to take care of themselves. Here we are taking precautions after the same fashion to protect our citizens.
Deputy McGilligan said that we were slavishly imitating the British in the matter of the A.R.P. In the modern world all nations are affected by the same problems, and it is very easy to level a charge of slavish imitation against anybody. I could say that somebody was slavishly imitating Negroes or Chinamen if I saw him driving around in a motor car because motor cars are in common use, and the Chinese and everybody else drive in them. I think it is foolish to accuse a person of slavishly imitating anybody. I have taken the example of a motor-car, millions of which are in use. We are no more slavishly imitating the British in regard to A.R.P. than we are the Chinaman driving around in his motor-car—that is if we drive in motor-cars ourselves. The British have a problem to protect their civilian population from the air in case of air raids just the same as we have here. We are taking precautions that are somewhat similar to theirs, that in almost all cases are identical with theirs.
I do not think I should delay the House too long in going into all the details of our defence programme. As a matter of fact, I am not going to do it. There were a few points raised that I want to reply to. Deputy McGilligan asked did we contemplate defending the forts and if we were going to keep them up. In April last it was made quite evident, in the speeches of the Taoiseach, that we were going to defend and maintain the forts. When speaking on the Estimate last night I showed what they were going to cost. They will cost a fair amount of money this year simply because we have had to take them over and to man them with a very high percentage of personnel from the regular Army.
Next year we hope to reduce that somewhat by the training of Volunteer personnel and of regular Army reservists for that arm. In the following normal years we hope to be able to get down to the point where we will ordinarily have merely regular cadres of engineers, artillerymen, etc., in these forts and where they will be dependent for their war strength on Army reservists, including the Volunteers. When we reach that point, the total cost will not be more than £50,000 per annum. Of that, £40,000 will represent the pay and allowances of personnel, civilian and military. The balance of £10,000 will be for the upkeep of the forts, ammunition, etc.
Now, in my opinion, the spending of that £50,000 a year is well worth the cost. It will be less than 2 per cent. of our total Army Vote, and, as the Taoiseach has pointed out time and again, and as I myself pointed out in my original speech, our first problem is the maintenance of neutrality, and the second, which is most likely to come about, is to defend ourselves in case we were attacked by some Power that wanted to use this country as a base of an attack on England. But, for whatever reason we are attacked, if we can call upon the help of a naval Power to resist that attack, then the forts and harbours would add to our combined strength enormously. In my opinion, the spending of this sum of less than 2 per cent. of our total Army Vote is money that will be very well spent indeed, by keeping those forts in good ship-shape—by keeping them up-to-date in every way. I believe that by spending that 2 per cent. on keeping those forts going, we are adding greatly to our strength, and that in the case where we were co-operating with a naval Power to defend this country, we would be adding more to our combined strength than if we doubled expenditure on any other branch of the Army.
I have a shrewd suspicion that the fact that we could add such strength to another Power will make the fellow on the opposite side think twice before he will violate our neutrality. We want to be neutral. It is the most ardent desire of our people not to take part in any war. Deputy McGilligan alluded to one difficulty. He asked what preparations were being made here in regard to the Six Counties in case our shores should be attacked. The fact of the matter is that no satisfactory arrangements can be made to protect either the Six or the Twenty-Six Counties unless they are under a single authority. In my belief the British are very foolish indeed not to use their influence to get Partition abolished and to get our people here behind a single National Government to utilise all the strength and all the resources, spiritual and material, of the people in order to defend these shores. A lot is talked about co-operation with the British. We do not need to co-operate with the British in order to be a very valuable asset to the British in time of war. The fact that we would defend ourselves here and prevent anybody landing on our shores and using this country as a base to attack Great Britain would be very valuable indeed to the British military machine. It is very important indeed for them that they should be able to work in comfort and devote their attention to other problems that may arise in case of war, to be able to say: "Well, anyway, there is one direction we cannot be attacked from, and that is Ireland." If we had the Thirty-Two Counties under a single Government we could guarantee, I believe, with our combined resources, that no Power would get a foothold here in time of war in order to attack Great Britain. That does not mean to say, of course, that we could beat a big continental army. We could not if we were alone, but even the biggest of the continental Powers in time of war is not going to have a very big number of men to spare to send on an expedition to Ireland.
I am sure a number of you have read the stories of the last war, the European war, and read of the desperate efforts of, say, Mr. Winston Churchill to get even a few thousand troops to send to the Dardanelles early in 1915. When the British went there first they knocked out some of the forts and landed a few hundred marines to finish the job. If they had even a few thousand of a land army they could have walked through the Dardanelles, but they had not got them to spare at that particular time, and, until British prestige and honour, and all the rest of it, became involved, they had not the men to spare in any large numbers for the job of taking over the Dardanelles, even though it was of vital importance for them so that they could join up with the Russians through the Black Sea. In any possible alignment that I can see, should a European war break out, I do not believe that any Powers that are likely to be opposed to England would have sufficient strength to divert the number of men that would be necessary to overcome the strength of an Irish Army, if we had the 32 Counties under the control of one Government. I do not propose to go any further into that.
I hope to goodness, now that the Opposition have said their say, they will not oppose, too strongly at any rate, the strengthening of the Army forces. The Opposition, if they want to use it, have a power that would make it very difficult for the Government here to get all the troops that we require. A lot of them may feel that we should spend this money on air forces rather than on ground forces; but in this modern world, in this democratic State, we cannot all run the show. The reason why we have a Parliament at all is because the people put it to themselves, "Well, we can never get a decision if 3,000,000 of us are to discuss everything and to vote on every occasion," and therefore members of Parliament were elected.
The Parliament knows very well that it cannot get a job done if 130 of us, or whatever number we have, have to vote on every detail and, consequently, the members of Parliament entrust the executive work to the Government. The Government itself cannot discuss every detail of the work of every Department, and they have a Minister in charge of each Department. Even the Minister cannot go into every detail of matters that concern his Department, and he has to entrust the work, in my own case, for instance, to certain Army officers and civilians. They carry out a lot of the work connected with defence.
The point I am coming to is that I have to trust some military officers in connection with some of the points in the defence programme I put before the Dáil last night. I have also to trust civilians for their calculations as to cost, etc., and the Government had to trust me to go into the whole matter in fair detail. They had to accept it that the document I put before you and the figures I gave as to cost were a fair representation of what was going to be done. They had to trust my judgment, after hearing the arguments, that the plan proposed was the best in our present circumstances. The Opposition cannot possibly run the Army or any other Government Department, and, in a vital matter like this, even though they may disagree with me as to the details, as to whether £1,000,000 should be spent on a ground army and £2,000,000 on an air force or vice versa, the net result of the expenditure of the money will, at any rate, be to strengthen the national defence forces to meet aggression coming from any quarter.
I think that in these times we are not talking in a vacuum. If we want to maintain our independence, and to keep our people here, having the right to control their own destinies, then we have to strengthen the Defence forces, and the Opposition will have to rely on the Government utilising this sum of money to the best possible advantage. If we had co-operation from all sides of the House in getting men for A.R.P., for the standing Army and for the Volunteers, I am perfectly certain we would get a very high standard of recruit indeed, and if we get a high standard of recruit, we would be adding to the strength of the national force that is going to defend all of us. Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, and the voters who voted for us. The Opposition may vote against this, but if it passes they have at least made their protest against it. The money is going to be spent, but in order to ensure that it is spent to the best possible advantage, if patriotic citizens of all Parties would co-operate to get the best type of recruit for A.R.P., for the Army, and for the Volunteers, then we will be spending this money in the best way for the nation and for all Parties and their supporters.
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