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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 7 Mar 1939

Vol. 74 No. 12

Offences Against the State Bill, 1939—Second Stage (resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time." (Minister for Justice.)

During the previous discussions on this Bill the Taoiseach, the Minister for Defence and other spokesmen from the Government benches hurled a number of unfounded allegations across the floor of the House at the Labour Party, and alleged that the members of the Labour Party were opposing the passage of this Bill because they were supposed to be in sympathy with outside organisations of a military character that had decided to overthrow this Government. Now, such allegations have no foundation whatever. The Taoiseach, in referring to that matter, said that.

"the Labour Party ought to consider the wider aspect of it"

—the Offences Against the State Bill—

"and, as members of this House, they ought to try to support its authority."

The Minister for Defence unfortunately went much further. I do not know whether he used these words quite deliberately, or had evidence that words had been used by some member of this Party to justify his allegation, when he said:

"From certain phrases used by the Labour Party here, it will be taken that they favour a certain armed organisation continuing."

I would invite the Minister for Defence, if he speaks again, to endeavour to justify that allegation by evidence at his disposal, or by words used at any time by any member of the Labour Party in this House. Further on, the same Minister proceeded to deal with the Labour Party and to ventilate his views concerning their attitude. He said:—

"I hope the Labour Party, as they are concerned or should be particularly concerned with the people who are the worst off in the country, the people who are in greatest need of assistance, will not, by anything they say throughout the country, create a situation that would help to fritter away our national energy."

Is it to be understood from that further statement of the Minister that, from information at his disposal, it is the intention of the Labour Party to go outside this House and encourage some armed body of citizens to proceed to overthrow the authority of this Government? I say that no Labour Deputy who ever sat in these benches suggested anything of the kind, inside or outside the House.

When I came into this House in 1922 to the Constituent Assembly with a number of colleagues, we came on the instructions of the governing body of the Labour Party to give effect to the majority decision of Dáil Eireann at the time and help to the best of our ability to frame a Constitution in accordance with the decision of Dáil Eireann in connection with international negotiations. We came into this House in spite of threats of assassination, dictated probably and directed to us by some of the people who are now making these allegations against us. I say the allegations contained in the words of the Minister for Defence should be withdrawn if the Minister cannot produce evidence to substantiate them. Whatever we may think about one another, we should not, at any rate, hurl allegations of this kind from one side of the House to the other; we should not allege that people elected here, a constitutional Party as the Labour Party is, are going to deceive the people to the extent that we will collogue, to use the word used by another Minister, with people outside the House for the purpose of overthrowing the Government elected by the majority of the people. The allegation is that we are engaged in colloguing. We would not be worthy of being members of this House if we were in collusion or engaged in colloguing with such people. There is no foundation whatsoever for any such allegation and I am sure the intelligent, sensible people of the country are not going to swallow political and unfounded allegations of that kind.

We are opposing the passage of this measure because the Offences Against the State Bill, or 30 sections of it, propose to take over all the repressive powers contained in what is known as Article 2A. They propose to take further dictatorial powers in addition to what they have and to make this new legislation part of the normal law of this country. Whatever might have been said—and a good deal was said from the Labour Benches at the time— against the necessity for the introduction of the powers contained in Article 2A, there is one thing to be said for it, at any rate, and that is that the powers contained in that article, in that particular type of legislation, could not be put into operation without the issue of a proclamation, and it had to be suspended in the same way by the issue of a proclamation by the Executive Council. The people who vote for this Bill are going to hand powers to the Executive to make this the normal law and they will give them further dictatorial powers such as were never given before to any Executive by any previous Dáil.

Speaking on the previous measure in this House, the Minister for Finance who is no doubt an authority on democracy, said that "no democratic Assembly and no national Legislature can afford to give uncontrolled powers to the Executive." In opposition in this House at the time was Deputy Lemass who, speaking on the powers sought by Deputy Cosgrave's Party in connection with the legislation I have referred to, defined the rights of the people as the right of free speech, the right of free assembly, the freedom of the Press and the right to be allowed to go at liberty until a charge can be brought and proved. In addition to the powers contained in Article 2A, this legislation that is now introduced, if it is passed, will take from the people every right which Deputy Lemass at the time described as the right of a free people.

The Taoiseach, speaking in this House also, suggested that when they brought down Article 2A he thought the Labour Party supported them. This is actually what the Taoiseach said: "When we brought down Article 2A, I think the Labour Party supported us.... I think they did support us. My recollection is that we were supported and, I think, rightly supported, by the Labour Party at that time, but what I want to point out to the Labour Party is that they ought not, in dealing with these matters, keep the Party aspect, the political aspect of this question in mind." That is not a correct picture of the position which the Taoiseach and the Government presented to this House in 1933 when they decided to make use of the powers in their possession, namely, the powers contained in Article 2A. Everybody who wants to remember—and I daresay it would be good for everybody to forget—what happened in 1933 will recollect quite clearly that we had a state of armed revolt in this country. You had a body in this country who were going round encouraging people not to pay annuities and who were cutting telegraph poles.

The Deputy ought not to raise these contentious matters.

What I have said is quite true. We were presented with a certain condition of affairs. A definite and deliberate attempt on the part of an armed or semi-armed body operating outside this House was made to defeat the Government and prevent them putting their policy into operation. That was the position with which the Labour Party was confronted. The Fine Gael or the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, as they were described at the time, brought in a motion proposing to censure the Executive Council for attempting to use the powers contained in Article 2A. That was the position with which the Labour Party was confronted at that time, and it is not right to say that we supported the Government under normal circumstances. We supported the Government in making use of the powers contained in Article 2A to prevent the Government from being overthrown.

Mr. Morrissey

And you would not support them in 1932.

That is further proof to the Minister for Defence and to all whom it may concern that we recognise fully the authority of the Government set up by the people, whether it be a Fianna Fáil or any other Government. We will give our support to whatever Government may be in power, just as we gave it to the Fianna Fáil Government at that time, in order to prevent any armed body of people operating outside this House from endeavouring to stop the Government from functioning or from attempting to overthrow the Government of the day. I make that statement because the Taoiseach, in the words he used, wanted to create the impression that without any justification—and he did not proceed to give any explanation in support of what he said—we were prepared in the normal circumstances to support those who wanted to put the powers in Article 2A into operation. The conditions were absolutely abnormal, and were it not for the fact that we supported the Government in putting down the body who tried to overthrow them, I daresay some of the Ministers over there would not be making the allegations which they made within the last few days against this Party.

It is no harm to mention that when Deputy Lemass, as he then was, was speaking in this House in opposition to the public safety legislation introduced here in 1931, he alleged that certain powers were being given to State servants, such as Civic Guards, at the time, to commit assaults on civilians and to escape the consequences. I wonder would the Minister for Industry and Commerce take the risk of repeating the allegation in the circumstances of to-day, seeing that the Guards are getting powers additional to those contained in the repressive legislation passed at that period? For instance, the power to proclaim a public meeting under the powers contained in Article 2A was confined to the Executive Council, but in the particular legislation now before the House, the power of proclaiming a meeting can be exercised by a chief superintendent or a superintendent of the Gárda Síochána. Is the Minister. standing over that kind of legislation as part of the normal law of this State?

Under a certain section of this Bill, as I say, a superintendent of the Guards can proclaim on a Saturday a meeting which is going to be held on Sunday. Of course, there is an additional sub-section in the section referred to, which says that the people proposing to hold the public meeting can appeal against the proclamation but if a superintendent of the Civic Guard proceeds to exercise the power on Saturday to proclaim a meeting which it is intended to hold on the following Sunday, how can those responsible for organising that meeting proceed to hold the meeting in such circumstances? Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, the ex-Minister for Justice, was so concerned, even after his own experience of the use and abuse of powers of this kind, that he said: "I do not believe there is another country in the world, except Nazi Germany, in which sub-section (1) of Section 8 can find its parallel." That is a statement of the ex-Minister for Justice, who has had experience of the use of the powers contained in Article 2A when he was Minister for Justice in the late Government.

Although the Fine Gael Party are apparently going to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill we have them criticising, and I dare say they have good grounds for criticising, many of its sections. A remarkable statement was made by Deputy McGilligan when, after a most severe criticism of certain points in the Bill, he said: "Take your exceptional circumstances and the exceptional powers you want and operate them as swiftly and as ruthlessly as you can." That is the kind of support which I presume the Minister for Justice welcomes from the Opposition in connection with the passage of this Bill.

Mr. Morrissey

Will the Deputy read what he said about the other part of the Bill? The Deputy has not dealt with the part dealing with the permanent law.

I agree that Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney and Deputy McGilligan qualified their support for the Second Reading by saying that unless certain sections and sub-sections were deleted, they reserved the right to vote against the final stage of the Bill. I should like to hear from the Minister for Justice, when he is replying, what is the meaning of "State employee"? Is the definition of "State employee" to be extended to persons engaged on minor relief schemes, afforestation schemes, Land Commission improvement works, or what is the meaning of the term as referred to in Section 6 of the Bill? Section 6 of the Bill gives very extensive and dictatorial powers to the people responsible for the administration of the measure, in so far as its operations may extend to water bailiffs, sheriff's bailiffs, summons servers and income-tax collectors, and any type of person who can be brought within the meaning of the term "State employee."

Section 7 of the Bill proposes to give certain powers to deal with persons who will be charged with intimidating the President in carrying out his duties. May I inquire if the Gaelic Athletic Association, who were recently responsible for expelling our President from the office of patron of that body, could be brought under the powers contained under Section 7 of the Bill, charged and found guilty of intimidating the President in the exercise of his normal duties? I am asking that question because the President's duties have not so far been very clearly defined in any detail whatever. I am not sure that bodies like the Gaelic Athletic Association, who are obliged to carry out their duties under the rules of the association——

The Deputy should treat the measure seriously.

——could not be brought under the terms of that particular section of the Bill if it is passed in its present form. Section 8 proposes to give power to deal with every person who encourages an employee of the State to refuse to perform his duties, and to make such person liable to two years' imprisonment. Is it to be taken for granted that that section is inserted in the Bill for the purpose of dealing with persons employed on afforestation schemes, minor relief schemes, or public works of any kind, who may deem it their right to withdraw their labour in connection with demands for the improvement of wages and conditions of service? I should like to know exactly what is in the mind of the authorities responsible for seeking such powers. The same section proposes to take very extensive powers in connection with the printing and circulation of seditious documents. I dare say some of our daily papers will, when that section comes into operation, be prevented from publishing certain documents from persons like Miss Mary MacSwiney dealing with the activities of the present Government or with those of others with whom she does not agree on political matters.

"Truth in the News."

"Truth in the News" might escape. I do not think they publish these communications in full but I dare say it would be regarded as a very serious matter for the Irish Independent to publish documents of that kind in full as they have apparently been doing in the past.

There is another section of the Bill which proposes to take power to suppress organisations because they are supposed to be of an unlawful character. If, under the terms of this section as I read it, the proper authority proceeds to suppress an organisation, the organisation certainly has the right to appeal to the High Court against the suppression order but has no further right of appeal. If the Government, on the other hand, appeal against an adverse decision of the High Court, they have a further right of appeal to the Supreme Court. The suppressed organisation has not the same right of appeal that the Government has. I notice that the Minister takes no power to revoke a suppression order. Once a suppression order is made, it remains, as no power is contained in the Bill to revoke it. Another dangerous power taken in the Bill deals with the suppression of public meetings. Under Article 2A, this right was reserved to a member of the Executive Council, or to the Executive Council, but under this particularly repressive measure, the right to suppress a public meeting is handed over to a chief superintendent or superintendent of the Gárda Síochána. I should like to know why such drastic powers are being handed over to officers of the Gárda and not reserved to the Government. What is the reason for extending the powers of the officers of the Gárda in connection with serious matters of this kind? If the people are to retain their rights of free speech and free assembly under the Constitution, surely such rights should not be taken from them under the normal law by the stroke of a pen of a chief superintendent or superintendent of the Gárda Síochána.

The Labour Party are opposing this Bill because they believe that, in the first instance, there is no need for it and, in the second instance, because it is depriving citizens of rights and liberties which the Government have no right to filch from them in the present normal conditions. No case whatsoever has been put forward for the passage of this measure so far as the internal state of the country is concerned. It has been suggested by other speakers that the introduction of this Bill and of the Treason Bill has some connection with certain incidents which have taken place in another country. I do not know whether or not the Minister is prepared to admit that, but, at any rate, neither he nor any of his colleagues has given any indication or intimation or evidence to show that there is any likelihood of any threat to the Government from the citizens of this State.

I am convinced that the introduction of these two Bills is going to do a great deal of damage to international trade and is going to frighten away from this country, during the course of the present year, thousands of tourists who would otherwise come to our shores. The mere introduction of legislation of this kind gives people outside the impression that there is something radically wrong in the country and that there is danger in coming to it. I should like if the Minister for Justice would, in his reply, endeavour to remove the bad impression created by the introduction of this Bill and its brother-in-law, the Treason Bill. In the opinion of some people, this Bill will also have the effect of justifying —if any justification can be forthcoming—the activities of the Craigavon Government in regard to the imprisonment and internment of Irish nationals in the Six-County area. It will, certainly, not have the effect of hurrying the Craigavon Government in meting out decent treatment to the citizens of the Six Counties or releasing, in the near future, those whom they have thrown into prison.

I am of opinion that the real reasons for the introduction of this measure have not been given to the House. I recognise, as do many other Deputies, that the Taoiseach is a very cute and longheaded politician, that he probably sees the possibility of a world war— perhaps in the near future—and the possibility of this country being dragged into that war at the tail of Great Britain, whether we like it or not. In such circumstances, he probably foresees the necessity for having in his possession repressive powers of this kind. If that be so, the Minister for Justice or some other Minister should come to the Dáil and justify the introduction and passage of the Bill on these grounds or, at any rate, on some better grounds than those advanced by the Taoiseach or any of the Ministers who have, so far, spoken on this particular measure.

I wish to oppose this measure. I regret that I cannot endorse it even to the extent that some of my colleagues have endorsed it. Taking up that attitude, there are one or two points I wish to make. In the first place, I recognise that a Government must have a means at hand by which, in time of emergency, it can govern. I adopt that principle and support it. But I oppose this measure because the Minister has not, in my opinion, treated the House fairly. He has not seen fit to take this House into his confidence and tell us why the measure has been introduced at this particular time. There were periods in which a case might have been made that it was necessary. Yet, the Government, for some reason or another, did not take any step or make any move to introduce the measure then. Secondly, I think that the effectiveness of legislation such as this is reduced by passing it at a time such as this. Remember, the effectiveness of legislation of this type is when the occasion has arisen for it, so that the immediate passing of the Bill brings the position violently to the minds of the persons you want to inform. Much has been said about the former Public Safety Act, as it was called—the amendment of the Constitution—but this must be said for it, that it was effective.

One of the causes that led to its effectiveness was that it was brought in at the time when it was necessary. I admit all the violence of the Opposition of the time and of the Labour Party, but nobody knew exactly what it was. Even the I.R.A. leaders down the country at that particular time did not know how much power the Government of the day had acquired, so it "put the wind up" them, if nothing else, because they had to wait and see what exactly was going to happen.

This particular Bill is brought in at a time when there is comparative peace. At least as far as we can see, nothing is happening with which the ordinary law, if enforced, could not deal. Whoever is responsible, whether it is the Government itself or some Department of State, I must say that I think the ordinary law has not been enforced. I am perfectly aware of the fact that several members of the Government Party were aware of where arms and ammunition were dumped, but they did not see fit either to inform the Guards or any other authority that would pick them up. Therefore my case is that the ordinary law is not being made use of, and that the necessity for this measure does not arise. Again, there is enshrined in the Constitution the liberty of the citizen, a very fine doctrine; the sacredness of the home, a very fine doctrine; the liberty of the Press, a very fine doctrine. All are guaranteed. Freedom of meeting is guaranteed. But, having done all that, we bring in a measure, to be made an ordinary Statute of the Oireachtas, reducing all those things that are guaranteed under the Constitution. We start off with a great flourish. We have the Constitution passed by a majority of the electors— I will not say by a majority of the people—and no sooner has that been done than this Bill is brought in to reduce all the things that have been guaranteed under the Constitution.

As Deputy Davin has pointed out, even freedom of public meeting is being imperilled, where a superintendent of the Civic Guards thinks something; all he has to do is to think that Deputy Victory and I are going to clash outside the gate of some church, and that a row will take place. All he has to do is to think that Deputy Childers and Deputy Victory are going to have a row. He is then entitled to suppress the meeting. I hold that Deputy Childers and Deputy Victory should be entitled to speak even if there were a bit of a row, and the superintendent of the Guards should not have the right to say: "Because I think this is going to lead to a breach of the peace the meeting must be suppressed." Therefore I agree with Deputy Davin that the procedure should be at least nothing worse than in the Six Counties, that is, that the meeting should be suppressed by a responsible Minister of State, and that it should not be left to any officer of the Guards, no matter how high he may be, to decide that particular question.

The Minister for Justice, as I say, should take the House into his confidence. I admit that the responsibility of government rests with the Government, and that they should be in a position to say: "We require this power in order to govern and here are the reasons." Every responsible Deputy would have to weigh that very carefully, and I cannot see any Deputy with any sense of responsibility in any part of the House refusing that power. But the Minister blandly comes in and reads two proclamations, one signed by a number of people handing over to certain other people, and those people issuing a new proclamation. The only thing I can say about it is that the names may be the names of Plunkett and Russell, but the words are the words of de Valera and Ruttledge. Here is the astonishing fact, that one of those proclamations, signed by those two persons who are now Ministers of State, found in the pockets of one of those fellows to-day, will render him guilty of an offence under this particular measure. I have a fairly large collection of all those proclamations. I have had one in storage for the Minister for Finance for a considerable time, because he challenged me to produce it here in the House, and when the time comes I hope to produce it. But if this Bill passes, and I am coming here to the House with that document in my pocket, and somebody knows that I have it. I cannot get this far because I will be arrested under the Offences Against the State Act.

He will get you arrested if he knows you have it.

Well, I would not charge him to the extent of saying he would do it deliberately, although, mind you, one of the reasons why I am opposed to this particular Bill is that I hold that the present Executive did not administer the Public Safety Act impartially; that they administered it partially, and with the greatest amount of hardship and political partisanship. I deny the assertion made by Deputy Davin that the League of Youth or the Blueshirts were a semi-armed or military organisation. They were no such thing. They were not armed. There were members of it who held arms under the authority of the State; they held them under a 5/- licence. They applied for permission to have them, and got the authority. We know that the Minister for Justice, no matter how great was the sentimental regard for one of these weapons used, perhaps, for protection purposes in days gone by, had it picked up, whether it was a souvenir or not. I hold that the administration of the Act was not impartial, but was—perhaps I should not say used—abused by the Executive. It could be argued, of course, that that charge could be levelled against those who initiated it. Like everything else, I suppose that is a matter of opinion.

I feel that the time is inopportune for this measure, and that parliamentary time, that might be better employed on other activities, is being wasted. Questions of social and economic importance require attention, yet, we are here wasting our time, when everything is peaceful, dealing with a measure such as this instead of with questions affecting agriculture, and drainage. A Land Bill which has been on the Order Papers since February the 8th, seems to be in the Limbo of lost things because of the urgency of the Treason Bill. Therefore, I cannot support this measure. I feel that the Government should withdraw it, and it a time arises—and I hope it will not arise—when they say that they want this power and cannot get on without it, I am perfectly satisfied the House will not deny the Executive whatever authority it requires to protect life and property, and to guarantee the things enshrined in the Constitution. For these reasons, I must withhold my support from this measure.

On the whole I cannot complain of the reception this Bill has got from the House. One would feel, from some of the speeches heard towards the close of the debate, that the Government was doing something that was going to be popular in the country or very popular, from the Party point of view. Unless the people can be got to realise the absolute necessity for such a measure then the people who oppose it and make politics of it get advantages from it. The House should realise at the outset that, when we came here with this Bill, we were convinced as to its absolute necessity, and when we have got it through this House we will feel that in putting it through, and leaving it there for the purposes for which we may think it necessary, we will have done something to protect the liberty of this State and the citizens of this State. I stated at the introduction of the Second Reading that what we wanted was to get the principle of it adopted, and if the principle was adopted, we were prepared to go to any reasonable length to try to meet any feelings or any doubts that might exist amongst Deputies on particular details of the Bill. That is the attitude we still take up. The first four parts of the Bill have been criticised, and ridiculous suggestions have been made as to how they might be applied. I think Deputy McGilligan touched the kernel when he said that they appeared to pivot around unlawful associations. There is no intention to interfere with anybody or with any organisations, unless they are clearly unlawful organisations, and I am sure Deputies will appreciate this. Except in so far as it might be considered by the Executive to tie its hands unduly and unfairly in dealing with a difficult and a serious situation, the Government is prepared to meet the views and fears, which I regard as being groundless, as best we can.

Two arguments have been directed mainly against the Bill, the first that there is no necessity for it, because there is adequate law to deal with the ordinary situations, and secondly that the country has not been so peaceful for a long time. There is no use in blinding ourselves as to what the position would be if anything serious—from the political or semi-political angle— occurred with the powers we have, at present, to deal with such a situation. When I say political or semi-political angle, I do not mean that in the sense of people in this House. I mean people operating outside, who believe not in operating on constitutional lines but by means of violence to achieve their aims. We had Article 2A in operation. We were reluctant to put it into operation, but when we looked around at a certain situation, to see how we might deal with it, and when we had examined every bit of legislation, and every tittle of law available to us, we found we had no other means at our hands to deal with that situation. Deputies know how we criticised Article 2A at the time it was being enacted, and how we felt about it at that time. It was with considerable reluctance we had to take advantage of the provisions that were there. If we had any other law or legislation available to deal with that situation we would not have resorted to that measure. With the passing of the new Constitution Article 2A disappeared. We were told that we had the Treasonable Offences Act. Anybody who looks at Sections 1 and 2 of that Act will see, no doubt, that it does not apply. They know that it is not applicable to the new constitutional position. If they examine every section of it they will see that they are tainted with the same unconstitutionality. We find ourselves now in this position: when we look to the ordinary law to deal with the situation there is neither the Treasonable Offences Act nor Article 2A available.

Deputy Davin made various suggestions as to the reason for this Bill being brought in at this time. As I said in moving the Second Reading, we could have two minds about the introduction of such a measure. That was misunderstood or misconstrued by some Deputies in the House to mean that there was a division in the Cabinet. I could myself have two minds about this matter. The two minds were those: whether we were going to ask the House to pass a measure then, as an ordinary precautionary measure, and have it considered calmly here in the House, with no incidents and nothing having happened that might in the ordinary way be considered by some Deputies to be its justification; the other mind might be to take your chance and wait until something had happened. As I said the last day, we took what we call a compromise attitude and this Bill is the result of that compromise attitude.

Deputies have emphasised the peace that prevails in the country. We are all pleased with the peace that does prevail in the country and no one should be more pleased than the Government because they claim that their policy helped to secure that peace. We believe that we want a Bill like this to maintain that peace. I know the criticism that has been levelled at those two proclamations. Anybody can make play with them if they want to. If those proclamations emanated from an organisation that had not arms in their hands and war materials at their back perhaps they could be treated as if they were play-acting. We know the position in the country. We know the persons who signed those proclamations and I am not going to accept the view of Deputy O'Higgins when he said that all it meant to him, or might mean to him, was the disappearance of one of two organisations. I would just like to remind him that the organisation that survived and remained was the armed organisation. Does any sensible, reasonable Deputy in this House for one moment believe that those people are play-acting? Does anybody in this House, who knows anything about this country, suggest for a moment or believe for one moment, that those people are not going to act and intend to act on those proclamations? No Deputy, I believe, who has lived in this country and knows the history of this country, has any doubt whatever about it. As I pointed out, we know that these people have arms.

Why do you not get them?

We have got some of them. It is all very easy for people to go around any say, "Get them". We have got some arms in this country but no matter what efforts could be made along those lines, unless you go around foolishly, raiding here and there for them, and creating disturbances in the country, there is not much hope of getting them, at least in considerable quantities. I could perhaps recite various matters that come before my notice in the Department of Justice. I thank Deputy Dillon for appreciating the difficulties that exist towards disclosing that information, and I want at once to say that that information at the moment is not of a terribly serious character, but it is sufficient at least to indicate to any responsible Minister or to any responsible Government that, if the situation is not dealt with, then it is going to be a serious situation.

I want to deal at once with the suggestion made by Deputy Davin—I think he was the first that hinted at it in the long debate that has gone on in this House—that there is something peculiar at the back of bringing in this Bill at this particular time.

And making it normal law, yes; that is the point.

I will deal with the ordinary law in a moment. I am speaking now on the fact of bringing it in here at the present time. I am precluded, and must be precluded, from referring to any incidents that may have happened elsewhere, but the Deputy knows perfectly well that this Government is not dictated to from outside, and I can say no more than that. I have heard Deputy Hickey, of Cork, talking about how peaceful it is in Cork. It is comparatively peaceful in Cork.

Every where else, too.

But just take Cork. Deputy Hickey made out that Cork was an exceptional case. I know you can have peace of a certain kind. I could take other areas just as well, or certain areas, at any rate. On the 19th February you had a commemoration at Midleton in County Cork, and you had contingents attending there in military formation and taking military orders. At the close of the proceedings a speech was made by the party in charge. This is what he said:—

"The I.R.A. are reorganising to carry on the fight for the establishment of the republic. They have not taken any aggressive action against the forces of the State for the past two years, but if de Valera now tries to crush us with his new Coercion Act, then, all I can say is, may God help him. He will endeavour to enforce his new Coercion Act with the aid of his murder gang and the remnants of Cosgrave's murder gang. They will never suppress the I.R.A. We beat them in 1922, 1931 and 1936, and we will beat them again in 1939."

Before that, there was a party charged in Cork—and perhaps this is the sort of law the Deputy would like to have obtain——

Do not say that.

If the Deputy wants to say that things are peaceful, there are peaceful conditions, at a price.

They are peaceful. What you have read for me does not alarm anybody.

I am not reflecting on a court decision, but there was a party charged in Cork a fortnight before that speech was made, and, if Deputy Hickey knows anything about Cork, he knows the evidence was avail able there, and those people were afraid to give the evidence.

I am not aware of that.

That happens to be the fact, at any rate, and, under the circumstances, nobody here responsible could have asked those people to give such evidence.

Nobody else knows that to be the case.

Is the Minister aware that in that case the judge's charge to the jury was very definitely that there was no evidence?

And there could not be any evidence and there can never be any evidence if the gun is put to your head when you are told what is going to happen if you should give evidence. There could not be evidence if people are threatened like that when certain people are charged. Perhaps that is the peace that some people would like to have in this country. I put it to you that it is a very dear peace. It is a peace that cannot be accepted by any responsible Government.

That is another allegation against us, of course.

There is no allegation being made against anybody. I am not making charges against anybody, and I am not talking as loosely, or in such seamy vein, as Deputy Davin last Friday in his suggestions as to ulterior motives behind the Bill.

It does not come well from the Minister to make charges. He issued a good few proclamations himself in his day.

I did, and I issued them in very different circumstances. There was a very different State then, and the Deputy knows it. The people of this country have enacted a Constitution since, and a different State has been set up here.

You are taking rights from them now.

I am taking no rights from law-abiding people and people who respect the law under this new Constitution, none whatever, and let no Deputy try to get away with that.

Would the Minister say that circumstances have changed to that extent since the introduction of the new Constitution?

There are a number of circumstances which have changed in this country since 1932. A lot has changed in this part of the country since 1932, and no Deputy can point to any restriction on its liberty.

You have changed yourself.

I have not changed.

Of course, you have.

Will Deputy Davin allow the Minister to make his speech?

I was referring to a number of matters which I might, if I so desired, bring in here. There are various incidents through the country of which I might make a litany, if I so desired. It is not right to say that I am not candid with the House in not detailing them. There is certain information obtained from time to time by a Minister which, I feel, he is not bound to disclose, and I accept the view expressed by Deputy Dillon the last day, that, in certain circumstances. you can not only create a bad impression abroad, but very often create a panic at home.

Reference has been made to what will happen when the first four parts of this Bill become part of the ordinary law. There is nothing being asked for under Parts I to IV which every other civilised country has not got. Every other civilised country, as a matter of protection, has the powers that are there. Reference has also been made to public meetings. I do not want to point to particular countries, but there are democratic countries in which public meetings can only be held by permission of the police force. There are also organisations which are not permitted to form without the permission of the Government and which can be dissolved by the Government. I am not now referring to dictator nations. We are not trying by this Bill to limit the rights of anybody, any association or any organisation, and I think every Deputy who is honest with himself knows that. We are only trying to deal with those military, or semi-military, organisations that have taken to themselves the right to change the Government of this country by violent means.

I have indicated that, so far as I can, I will try to meet points which I believe should not be a cause of fear or suspicion to Deputies; and I am prepared to go to any reasonable lengths to meet Deputies in regard to amendments to Parts I to IV of the Bill. Deputies have talked about making this part of the ordinary law. I should like to put the alternative in that regard before the House. If you have it there as the ordinary law, it is there as a deterrent against people taking action, whereas if you have not got it as part of the normal law, and if you have to deal with a situation in a certain way, a certain number of things may happen before you will act and deal with that situation. However, I am prepared to go to any reasonable lengths to meet Deputies in this matter, provided that reasonableness does not become foolhardiness and leave us without the necessary powers to deal with situations that may arise from day to day.

As I have said, I do not want, in justification of the Bill, to go into a litany of things that have happened in the country. I do not think I need do so. I do not think that anybody here can take the change-over that has taken place as some bit of play-acting that a certain group of people are carrying on. The arms are there; the material is there; and the training, the drilling and the organisation is going on. I do not for a moment accept the position, and I do not think any Minister has the right to accept it, that before I can come to the House, some murders must be committed in the country. I do not think it is a position that could be adopted by any responsible Minister that you must let people strike first, and, then, when a few murders are committed, come in here and ask for legislation of this sort. We want to have the powers there so that people will see the finger-post pointing at them if they take certain action or do certain things.

Deputy Hughes made a reference with which I should like to deal. He asked which Minister was to be relied on, and said that I had stated that I wanted this Bill passed and that the Minister for Defence stated that, when the Bill was passed, we might not have to use it. There is no difference between the two views. I hold on to the same hope that when people see that we mean what we say, that we have the necessary legislation enacted and that we are in a position to deal with any situation that may arise, it may not be necessary, perhaps, to put the Bill into effective operation. I do hope it will not be necessary, and I think everybody in the House holds to that hope. We are not going out to create any panic in the country; we are not going to start any action that would in any way force a position here that might not otherwise arise; but when I say that, I mean that should the necessity for the operation of the Bill be indicated, the measures we will have to take must be effective.

I hope that no people outside will misunderstand when I say that I hope these powers will not have to be used. I sincerely hope they will not, but I do not want people outside to get it into their heads that this is merely a threat and that we are not going to take action to make the powers we may get effective, however regretful it may be, if the circumstances demand it. But I would urge, if any urging meant anything to those people, that they might take stock of the position even now. There is no hope whatever of those people succeeding in achieving anything by any violent means. A Constitution was enacted here which left everybody perfectly free. A free election was held afterwards and every opportunity was provided for those people, without inflicting anything on their consciences by way of an oath or test or anything of that sort, to go forward for that election and to enable them, if they could get the support of the people in sufficient numbers and get a majority, to become the Government of the country and work out what, according to their own judgment and their own beliefs, would be best for the people of this country.

This part of the country, at least, as everybody knows, is absolutely free, and in those circumstances there is no justification whatever for any body of people setting themselves up and trying to change or alter the position by violent methods—none whatever. As well as that, not only is there no reason for it, but there is absolutely no hope whatever for it. It is going to lead them nowhere. I heard Deputy Davin referring to something that the Minister for Defence said. I think it had regard to where the Minister for Defence was referring to Deputy Norton talking about this tyrannical measure. The Minister for Defence, in answering that, pointed out that the first sufferers would be the poorer people of this country. We all know that, if there is going to be trouble in this country, it is the poorer people who are going to suffer most for it.

Mr. Morrissey

Hear, hear! They always did.

If people can call this a tyrannical measure, I suggest that they should weigh their words, because, instead of our allowing a situation to develop that might be dealt with now, if those people outside have the common sense to realise how futile their policy is and that this may be effective very soon, it is much better than to allow a situation to develop which is going to lead to considerable trouble in this country and to considerable hardship on people who are least able to bear it.

Some points were raised—small points—by various Deputies as to various aspects of this Bill. I think that the easiest way I can answer them—and I think I have answered them to some extent already—is to say that we are prepared to go fully into this Bill on the Committee Stage— there will be plenty of time for it—and try to meet as far as we possibly can the views that Deputies may hold in order to make this a more normal measure, but at the same time ensuring that it must be an effective measure. I would rather see, in the emergency provisions of this Bill, if it could be done, some of the things that at present appear in Parts I to IV. I shall have that position examined and, if it can be done, we shall go a long way to try to secure it but, as I say, that can only be done when one is satisfied that one can do it safely and can do it effectively. Some of the reasons I have against that are that, by resorting to emergency powers or bringing down emergency powers, you will create some little panic, whereas, if the powers were there as normal powers—powers that, I contend, every civilised country in the world has had —if we have it there as the normal law, then it will be there, I believe, as a deterrent to people who may have inclinations or intentions, or who may have organisations, to do some of those things from which we are now trying to protect the people.

As I said at the beginning, and, say now, in conclusion, this Bill is not brought in in any panic. It is brought in calmly because we believe it is necessary. There are sufficient indications to us that such a Bill is necessary, and if the rights and liberties of our people are to be protected they should not be afraid of the provisions in that Bill. No person need have any fears whatever that this Bill will be operated in any way whatever so far as the law-abiding people of this country are concerned that there will be any interference with their liberty—none whatever.

Somebody asked why the powers to suppress meetings were being given to a chief superintendent. I do not want to go into details on all these points, but a real reason for that is this; From time to time, we have had a sort of trick-of-the-loop business of meetings being announced to be held in one place, and then, being held somewhere else. I do not see how you can have a Minister going around from one place to another issuing proclamations every half-hour to deal with such a situation. He could not do it. That is why it is being left to the chief superintendent to deal with such a situation.

It is not as simple as that.

It is not as simple for the chief superintendent sometimes.

It is your own job.

Well, again, I suppose it is one job, and it is one person, but you cannot be everywhere at the same time, and if you get a telephone message that a meeting is going to be held in some part of the County Dublin, and then, half an hour afterwards, the meeting is changed down to Kilkenny or somewhere else, you can not be chasing around the country like that. The reason for this is simply in order to enable the Bill to operate effectively. It is intended for organisations of a military or semi-military character, or unlawful organisations or assemblies for unlawful purposes. It is to deal with that sort of thing that that power is given. The Labour Party should not be trying to confuse the people—I suppose they really believe it —but they should not be trying to confuse the people, and trying to get the idea abroad that this is going to be against trades unions and bodies of that sort. They know themselves that that is absolutely nonsense, and I say that it would be much better to face the debate fairly, and not be trying to get away with the idea that that is the intention behind this Bill, or that it is going to be operated in that way. It is not.

I ask for the principle of this Bill on this Reading, and I shall do my best on the Committee Stage to meet the number of points that were raised here. We are convinced that the Bill is necessary. We are convinced that it is necessary, not merely because some people issued proclamations, but because, behind those proclamations lie a line of policy and a certain direction of activities which, we are told, are now going to be revived. We are told that certain organisations are being revived, that drilling is going to be revived, and that this armed body is going to be reorganised and revived. Either it is to be a question of allowing these people to go on with all this or dealing with the situation, or it means that the Government will be able to carry on, however little, depending only on the sufferance of these people, and depending on their whims from time to time as to whether they will allow the Government to carry on or not. But if the Government is going to remain and act as a responsible Government, the time has come to act in this matter.

Mr. Morrissey

Before you put the question, Sir, I want to raise a point of order. We had some discussion on the other Bill regarding the repeal section in connection with the Treasonable Offences Act and the Public Safety (Emergency Powers) Act. I want to submit that, at the moment anyway, Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Bill is, so to speak, outside the scope of this Bill, in so far as there does not appear to be any provision made for it in the Title. Is it the Minister's intention to provide for that?

That will be dealt with in the Committee Stage. I think it was put in there because it was thought that would be the appropriate place.

The Chair can assure the Deputy that note has been taken of the point raised.

Mr. Morrissey

My point is that, no matter where it is put, it is not in order in any part of the Bill.

That happened because it was transferred out of the other Bill into this.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 78; Níl, 12.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Benson, Ernest E.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Bourke, Dan.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Broderick, William J.
  • Byrne, Alfred (Junior).
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Childers, Erskine H.
  • Cleary, Mícheál.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Crowley, Fred Hugh.
  • Crowley, Tadhg.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Flinn, Hugo V.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Fogarty, Patrick J.
  • Friel, John.
  • Fuller, Stephen.
  • Gorey, Denis J.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hogan, Daniel.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Tubridy, Seán.
  • Hughes, James.
  • Humphreys, Francis.
  • Kelly, James P.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kennedy, Michael J.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • Loughman, Francis.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • McDevítt, Henry A.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Meaney, Cornelius.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Morrissey, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Mullen, Thomas.
  • Munnelly, John.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • O'Loghlen, Peter J.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • O'Sullivan, John M.
  • O'Sullivan, Ted.
  • Redmond, Bridget M.
  • Rice, Brigid M.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Laurence J.
  • Ward, Conn.


  • Burke, Thomas.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Davin, William.
  • Everett, James.
  • Hannigan, Joseph.
  • Hickey, James.
  • Hurley, Jeremiah.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Murphy, Timothy J.
  • Norton, William.
  • Pattison, James P.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Little and Smith; Níl, Deputies Everett and Keyes.
Question declared carried.
Committee Stage to be taken on Tuesday, 21st March.