The Government, Sir, has a responsibility for taking cognisance of every phase of activity in the country that will injure the morale of the people in dealing with their difficulties, just as they are responsible for trying to keep track of every piece of subversive activity in this country, and therefore I suggest that it is injurious to the morale of the people of this country to try to persuade the people that, in this Parliament, the people represented by Deputy Cosgrave, or by those in Opposition, are hanging back in any way in stating their preparedness to defend this nation, or hesitating to defend the State against those who are striking against the Constitution and the liberties of the people, or to suggest that there is any action or any assistance of ours that can be given that would not be given to constituted authority in this country and to rid the people of whatever dangers there are. I mention this for the purpose of showing that that was not so, and, assuming what will be said to-day from the Government side with regard to this measure, to show that, in so far as the Opposition Party here is concerned—and it is a big and influential Party, which can be of assistance to the Government, not only here but elsewhere in the country—that we were prepared one month ago to put into the hands of the Government the powers that the Government now say they want, because in dealing with a situation which can be described by the Taoiseach in the words in which he described it, there are certain things that are much more important than powers of internment. The first is public opinion; the second is the Police doing their duty; and the third is the Army; and it is only where public opinion and the Police and the Army have failed, that anybody or any Government is reduced to falling back on powers of internment. In the matter of public opinion, I said yesterday that the Minister for Justice—when, at one particular stage, he seemed to be in a difficulty as to what he should say to the House—was finding it very difficult to speak and answer questions raised here while the Taoiseach was holding his hand on his mouth. The speeches made from the Government Benches yesterday did not give the House, and therefore the country, the facts to which I think the country is entitled in order to help the people to understand the present situation and to help the Government to deal with it.
The Minister for Justice said yesterday that the organisation against which it is particularly intended to use these powers was strong in certain counties. It seems to me that we can weaken the power of public opinion to deal with the present situation by withholding from the people particulars as to the strength, the distribution and the direct objectives of this organisation. Many speeches have been made here which would suggest that this is a very subtle, threatening, widespread, mysterious, secret organisation with very considerable powers to do damage. I think it would be wrong to allow public opinion to get any idea of that sort. I think there is nothing in this organisation that an awakened public opinion could not deal with. I believe that public opinion, properly awakened, could completely prevent this organisation from being injurious to the country. I think that if public opinion were awakened sufficiently in relation to the members of this organisation the arms would drop from their hands and the mischievous bent in the minds of the greater part of the members of that organisation would be removed. Sun and air are required to deal with the disease that is operating amongst the members of that organisation.
As I have already indicated, the Minister for Justice said that the organisation was strong in certain counties. The House should be told what the counties are and the extent of the ramifications of the organisation in these counties. It would then be possible for the people of any one of these counties to realise how small is the threat to their liberties, their property, their lives and our national neutrality. Surrounded by a strong and appreciable public opinion, with normal conceptions of nationality and national life, with normal conceptions of Catholicity and Christianity and the application of Catholic thoughts and beliefs to the discharge of their social duties and the carrying on of their public life, I do not believe that the county in which this organisation is strongest, has most money and is best armed, would allow it to last for more than a couple of months if the membership of that organisation, its strength, its type of organisation and the type of work the members were carrying on—the objects they had in front of them in so far as the Government knew them—were put plainly before the House and brought plainly before their neighbours. I believe that should that happen the members of the organisation would recoil from looking their neighbours in the face, they would drop their weapons, and all the disease would go out of their minds.
This is not a big organisation, a strong or a disciplined organisation. You have a few people with a definite intent and a certain amount of technical qualifications. Then you have a mob whose minds are affected by a lot of the legacy of thought that has been left to them from the political platforms in this country during the last few years. I ask any of the Ministers who know anything of the situation, do they think that the completest publication of the conditions of the organisation, its armament, equipment and objectives in any particular county, even the county in which they are strongest, could do any harm? I submit that it is absolutely necessary to give the people a chance of realising how weak and infinitesimal and worthless, from the point of view of doing serious damage to this country, the members of this organisation are, if they are properly brought out into the open. I should like to be told what are these strong counties. If we are told about them, public opinion in the other counties could afford to look around in a more vigorous and courageous way. They could track down and see how small the danger is in these counties in which the Minister cannot say that the organisation is strong.
It is the duty of the Government to do that and it is also their duty to state in a most explicit way what are the objectives and the plans of this organisation for doing damage in the Six Counties or in Great Britain. If damage is going to be done by this organisation in the Six Counties or in Great Britain, we should be assured that the Government here, with the machinery at its disposal, the Police, the Army, and the public here, are acquainted with the situation and can find out what is going to be done and who is going to do it. Our reputation with people abroad demands that our Government should be in the closest possible connection with the Governments of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, either to help them or to receive their help, so that citizens of this State would not be allowed to damage property or endanger the lives of the people in the Six Counties and in Great Britain and would not be allowed to endanger, in the way in which it has been suggested here, the political relations between ourselves and the Governments of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We should see to it that nothing shall occur that might injure our position of neutrality in the present European conflict.
Are there any reasons why our Government should not make it known to the British Government that they are watching the situation here and that they are going to prevent damage being done and that, in so far as co-operation and an interchange of opinion between the Government here and Great Britain or the Six Counties could stop this thing, that they are going to stop it? Public opinion here, if it is to be organised and if it has to face up to its responsibilities, will have to understand that there is nothing at the present time preventing an interchange of opinion and co-operative action between our Government and the Government of any country in which people operating from here are likely to do damage.
We have not been told anything in that respect. I suggest that it is of the greatest possible importance that we should be told it and, if we are told these things, and if the public here can be persuaded that definitely and seriously the Government are going to leave nothing undone to prevent damage being carried out in this country or in those other countries —nothing undone in the matter of an interchange of opinion and co-operation with those other countries in which damage might be caused—if our people know that, then they will know where they stand. I think they can be persuaded that the organisation with which we are now concerned is not a serious threat to the lives or the liberties of the people of this country and that its members can be prevented from doing damage in other countries. I think they could be persuaded that there is the necessary co-operation and exchange of opinion between our Government and any other Government whose people are likely to be affected. It is absolutely essential that all doubt, and all injurious imaginings, would be swept away from the minds of our people as a whole in order that they would be of any use to the Government in strengthening its hands to deal with the present danger.
The next thing is the police. I do not want to go back into past things. I am dealing with the situation described on the 3rd January, 1940, in terms that show that the Taoiseach and his Government consider it serious. I do not want to go back into the circumstances in which weakness were brought into police administration which affect the police at the present time. But I have information—one cannot avoid it coming one's way— that some of the most loyal, some of the most effective and some of the most disciplined men in the police force, both officers and men, have for some years past felt that they cannot do their duty as their intelligence, their conscience and their lights would normally suggest to them. Political whisperings inside the force, and political favouritism throughout the country in discriminating between individuals and between different classes of people in the application of justice, have brought that about. Can we have an assurance—I do not mean of police changes in any part of the country but rather in the attitude of the police in every part of the country—that will convince the people that the police force is going to trace out disaffection, disorder, crime, irregularities, lawlessness and breaches of the law, and that men who do that are not going to be prejudiced in their position as police: that, generally speaking, the people can realise that the police force is there for police purposes only, detached from personal antecedents or political antecedents of policy?
In the searches that were carried out in the City of Dublin the other day for the lost ammunition, members of the Gárdaí went through places saying: "What use is it for us to be going around trying to find these things? If we do find them, the fellows responsible for putting them there will probably be let off under the First Offenders Act." As I have said, I do not want to go back. I am thinking of the position to-day, of the people of the country to-day and of the strength that they can be to the Government. The people, by their own actions and courage, cannot be of any direct strength to the Government except there is a police force there that is going to do the job of a police force. That force, by its scrupulous regard for its functions in the State and its detachment, can be of assistance to the people, and can receive from the people the assistance that the people can give it. That is the second assurance we want. We want it verbally, first. I am not making accusations of any kind, but in my opinion that assurance is essential if the whole public fabric here is going to be strengthened to deal with the present situation. We want it verbally, and the public will want to see it very quickly in the general attitude of the police force throughout the country to their duties.
The next is the Army. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures suggested this evening that there were some lessons that could be learned by the Opposition out of the raid in the Park. He did not indicate what they were. I agree with him, and I am glad to find myself able to say it, that the raid in the Park may bring good. It ought to, and it ought to help in bringing the Government to the position of realising that public opinion must be strengthened. Public opinion can only be strengthened if it feels that the Government has confidence in it, as well as by showing that the police force is completely and absolutely brought back to its proper functions, and that the Army is also properly strengthened. What I would say to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures is that when he was bringing about certain changes in the Army we advised him against them. I think it would be disastrous if young men in the Volunteers at the present time, however organised and however much we objected to the lines upon which their organisation was set up, should lose confidence in themselves or be humiliated by anything touching any aspect of the raid on the Magazine, or on any section of the Army.
I think it would be disastrous to take a leaf out of Deputy Norton's book of counsel: that any man in the Army would get it into his head that a soldier, taking the responsibilities of a soldier and of the uniform, was not taking with these definite responsibilities that required definite reactions on certain occasions, or that soldiers failing in their duty could escape the consequences of that failure. That should not be allowed. It cannot be forgotten that we have complained here that the political control of the Army over the last seven years has been such that the officers in it have been prevented from acting as professional people—of using their professional intelligence to perfect the Army as a machine, and of directing the Army's mind to the problems that the Army is there to solve. I do not want to say any more than that. I do not think there is anybody who doubts that the Army of this country, with its limitations, as far as its men and officers go, is a disciplined and efficient machine, measured by the equipment that it has.
What we want to be clear about is, that the Army will not lose confidence in itself, that the people will not be allowed to lose confidence in the Army, and that it will be made perfectly clear, in so far as there have got into any section of the Army men who are not prepared absolutely to accept their responsibility as soldiers when they get into that uniform, that they will be cleared out; that everybody will be respected for what he is, and for what he may be made, with, as we may hope, less intrusion of the political mind and direction coming from the Government and the Minister interfering with the professional carrying on of the work of those officers responsible for the Army.
There is another thing too that, from the point of view of strengthening public opinion, we want to have made clear. We want to make it clear that this country is being run, and is going to be run, as a democracy. That is a thing that, as far as the Taoiseach goes, the House has had no evidence of. The dominating thing to my mind in the debate yesterday was that there was one thing the Taoiseach was not prepared to do. He was not prepared to allow Ministers to take this House into the confidence that perhaps some of them would be prepared to take it. The Ministers seem to my mind to be divided into two sections, some of whom face facts and have opinions of their own, and whose appreciation of facts and opinions could be taken but to whom the Taoiseach says "This is what I think should be done." The other group seems to be people who fail to realise that they should face facts, who have given up facing facts or having opinions of their own. That is the decision with regard to the Government, and it reflects itself over the whole Party, that when he makes up his mind "that is that." Anything that would reflect alongside that, whether his appreciation of facts is right or not, or whether his plans for dealing with the situation are right or not, the result is that we get a state of things that cannot give rise to anything but an attack, you might say, on the Government, or even on their past.
There is one thing which will stop all unnecessary talk, all unnecessary references to the past, that will bring every member of this House behind the Government in giving it assistance and, in a great way, bring every person in the country behind the Government in dealing with this situation, and that is by the Government concentrating on serious and persistent action in dealing with the country's problems, and by a clear and spontaneous admission of facts, and as to why they are dealing with things in a particular way. That is going to guide a considerable volume of unnecessary talk that will inevitably group around the Government and impede it, if what we are presented with is not a statement dealing with the situation, but speeches from the Government Party on the front bench that attempt to cover up facts, speeches that put them in blinkers and that would put the House and the country generally in blinkers. The second outstanding fact in the situation, no matter what the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures may say about it, is that the Taoiseach was not half so explicit and was not so effective in dealing with the I.R.A. situation as he was when dealing with the Supreme Court or any other court that might be as perverse in its attitude towards the deliberations and the work of the Legislature as Deputy Costello suggested there was a definite probability that it might be.
Deputy Costello suggested that inside 24 hours, if necessary, when the Seanad has done its work, the Government could have all the powers it wanted, and that they would have our assistance in getting those powers. If pursued the other way, there was a danger of delay. Speaking with his experience at the Bar and with his experience as Attorney-General for a long period, Deputy Costello said that there was a danger under the Bill passed last night, that a habeas corpus application might hold up the Government in dealing with the present situation. The same thing might happen here. The fact is, if that does happen, then the Government is held up. The Taoiseach's reply to that was that it was a lot of steam. “After all that steam,” he said, speaking of the speech made by Deputy Costello, “let us get back to business,” and the business was to tell us that there was a very serious situation here, that he was prepared to run the risk that the Judiciary is going to take a perverse view of things, if it took the view that the ex-Attorney-General thought it was possible it would take.
The other thing we want to make sure of is this: Are we going to have a democracy? Is this country going to be carried on as a democracy? In my opinion, it is not being carried on as a democracy to-day. With a situation as serious as that, we are not told of the strength of this organisation, and we have not any recognition of the changed attitude that requires to be brought about in the Guards. We have not had a statement as to what our relations are with other countries whose people and whose property are imperilled by the activities of citizens of this country. When we are threatened that the court system will have to be changed if the Supreme Court is so perverse as to take an attitude such as was reflected in the opinion of the ex-Attorney-General, then I say that line must undermine the confidence of the people, and the fact that it must undermine the people would mean that we are not to be allowed to conduct affairs here as a democracy. After all, it is possible for the people to compare the legal history—let me be invidious if you like—of people who speak on our side on legal matters with the legal history of members of the Supreme Court. So that I would wish that that particular statement of the Taoiseach last night would be cleared up a little bit more before we run the risk that a habeas corpus application made, following an action of the Government under the Bill that was passed last night, might create a state of uncertainty and alarm in the people of the country as to the relationship between the Taoiseach and the Supreme Court.
Again I wish to summarise my appeal. Public opinion has to be informed, and it has to be informed in the way I say. It has to be assured with regard to the police. The Army has to be made confident in itself, and the thing that will make the Army confident in itself is if it is made to realise that the dead political hand of suggestion as to its future and its objectives will be removed completely, and that professional minds will be allowed to work on professional lines. The more professional minds are allowed to work on professional lines, the more effective will be the instrument that will be there to serve whatever Government is in office. The people should be informed as to the effective relationships that exist between our Government and other Governments who may be affected by the actions of our citizens, whose actions may react on us in the way in which Ministers have suggested, rather than stated, that they fear. We should in these critical times not take any hasty action with regard to the relationship between the Supreme Court and this Legislature. Following that, the Government, facing the situation with all the help that we have shown they have here in this House, and may get in the country by doing what we suggest with regard to strengthening public opinion, should show that all of them, from the Taoiseach down, are prepared to concentrate on the difficulties of to-day. In facing the difficulties of to-day, they should be prepared to carry their tenderheartedness to this point. Where, without prejudice to the safety and security of our people, they can offer an amnesty to people who have been operating in this way, people who have been dragged into this organisation, they should offer that amnesty. They must be aware that there are many people in this country who would be very glad to be relieved of the responsibility that has been put on them, partly even by the speeches and the pronouncements of the present Government, which has made them feel responsible for being members of this military or political organisation, or whatever other kind of organisation that you have. With an offer of an amnesty, and with a clearing, particularly, of the ground by showing what the objects of this organisation are, I believe they could decimate the strength of this organisation to-morrow.
As I suggested, it has not half the strength it has been stated to have. By an exposure of its objects and the falling away of its members by giving an amnesty to anybody who leaves it, they would immediately find themselves with no very great threat to any of the liberties of this country or to any of our people and, therefore, no danger to ourselves of being embroiled either with Great Britain or the North of Ireland by anything which might happen at the hands of a section of our people here.