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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 27 Sep 1939

Vol. 77 No. 2

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Éire Citizens in England.

asked the Minister for External Affairs if he will state whether the British Government have expressed concurrence with the view that citizens of Éire domiciled in this State, but temporarily living and working in Great Britain are not liable to military conscription by the British Government; and whether, if he has not already done so, he will take steps to ascertain the views of the British Government on this matter.

The Deputy will be aware that the British Military Service Acts have fixed the period of two years as a sufficient indication of intention to reside permanently in Great Britain.

The Deputy will also be aware that the British military service law does not apply to those Irish citizens who can show that their period of residence in England even when exceeding two years, has a temporary or an exclusively educational purpose.

At the time of the first Military Training Act of 26th May, I made a protest against including any Irish citizens in the category of British subjects liable for military service. That protest, was not successful. I must say, however, that, since the outbreak of the war, no obstacle has been put in the way of large numbers of Irish citizens with a much longer period of residence than two years returning to this country.

Perhaps I may be permitted here to inform the Dáil that, in view of the special problems arising out of the war situation, in regard to their mutual trade, economic and political relations, the Government of Ireland and the British Government agreed that the existing system of communications between them should be supplemented by the appointment of a British representative in Ireland.

Arising out of the reply of the Minister for External Affairs, is it perfectly clear, then, that young men, now going to work in England, or who, at the present moment, are engaged in work in England, and whose domicile is in this country, are safe from conscription?

The matter of domicile is the one on which, I take it, the Deputy's question depends. In regard to the matter of domicile, two years residence has been suggested by the British Government as sufficient indication of the intention to reside permanently in Great Britain, and I understand that residence there, for a longer period than two years, will he regarded by the British as permanent residence there and, therefore, that the people concerned will be regarded as permanently domiciled there. I take it, therefore, that persons who have not been in Great Britain for that period would be regarded as lining domiciled here.

I want to make this clear because I am sure the Taoiseach will understand that this is a very burning question in my constituency. If a person has been two years in England, has broken it for a short period, and has then returned to England, will he be considered to be domiciled in England? If there was a real break to come home, would that preclude English domicile?

In my opinion, if the Deputy is thinking of those who go over for farm work, that would be regarded as evidence of residence there for a purely temporary purpose. It has not come to my notice that there has been any interference with such people. If the Deputy will put down a more specific question with regard to any particular class he has in mind, however, I shall be glad to get as direct and immediate an answer to his question as possible.

There are many people who are working not merely on farms but working in the building trade—the construction of aerodromes and that sort of work—who have been in England for a considerable period, but have no intention of making England their permanent home. These are the persons in whom I am interested.

For a longer period than two years?

With regard to that, I have no way of determining, other than generally, what would be the view, but I take it again, as it has been put by the British, that those who have been there for a longer period than two years are regarded as coming within the law, inasmuch as such a period of residence is regarded as intention to remain there. On the other hand, I have also indicated to the Deputy that, notwithstanding that fact. since the outbreak of war, no obstacle has been put in the way of the return of quite a large number of our citizens who were there for a longer period.