Private Deputies' Business. - Postponement of General Election—Motion.

I move:—

That the Dáil is of opinion that it would not be in the best interests of the community that a general election be held during the emergency, and that any pending election be postponed until each House of the Oireachtas shall have resolved that the national emergency has ceased to exist.

It was with a certain amount of timorous feeling that I put down the motion that I have just moved. I was, to some small extent, uncertain as to what the country would think about it, and, consequently, I did not ask for time before the House adjourned last December. I wanted to hear what the county councils thought, and what the electorate had to say. To-day, I feel quite confident that I have the support of 99 per cent. of the men in the street, together with the different county councils which have passed unanimous resolutions that they do not want an election at the present time. I think I can say that there was not a single county council which was in favour of having an election at the present time.

Perhaps I might go a step further and say that it is not because I think, or that those, for whom I may speak, consider, the present Ministry or the present Government to be an ideal Government, because I do not—in fact, I think it is quite the reverse—but I do look upon the Government, with its present working majority and all the responsibility which that means, as superior to a Government without a strong majority and depending upon some other Party or group to help it through contentious legislation that may have to be introduced in the not distant future.

It would be a disastrous proposition to think of holding a general election in the spring. We have recently had experience of the county council elections, and, with the exception of a few counties, the poll was very small. It would be very much smaller in the case of a general election, because there would not be so much of the individual interests to be catered for, and consequently, it would not be a representative return. Quite a large number of our people have gone out of the country, as was pointed out by the Leader of the Labour Party here last night, and they will have no way of expressing their views. That was not contradicted by the Taoiseach last night—the statement that at least 100,000 of our people have left this country for work in England or Northern Ireland. Apart from that, however, there is the question of transport. The young people might come to the poll on cycles, provided the day was suitable, and the more aged men and women, who could cycle, might also record their votes, but there are a great many people in the country who could neither walk nor cycle, and who would not have any means of getting to the polling booths and, consequently, would not record their votes.

Possibly, some Deputies may say that the electorate could use the same kind of conveyances as they used 30 or 40 years ago, but I deny that, because 30 or 40 years ago every farmer or every shopkeeper had his horse and car, but most of these cars or carts were dumped on the scrap heap when the bus-age started, and have not been re-established. Accordingly, I say that the poll would be small and unrepresentative, as these people will have no means of getting to the polls. I admit that the number of polling booths has been increased, but what does that mean? It means an increased cost to the candidates in respect of stationery and transport, which we have no means of meeting. Stationery is almost impossible to get, and I do not suppose there is a house in town at present which could supply 2,000 envelopes. How are we to put our views before the electorate? The local papers can scarcely give you space for a prepaid advertisement. I do not propose to discuss the point as to how far the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures will allow us to put our views, but we have no means of getting voters to the polls as we have no cars, no horses, and no other facilities.

At the commencement of hostilities, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Protestant, Catholic, Labour and all the others mounted a common platform to encourage our men to join the L.S.F. and L.D.F. According to the Taoiseach's warning and according to recent pronouncements, these forces are still needed and the country is still in danger. Are we going to upset these organisations? Are we going to split their members into two different camps? Are we going to upset the country which is at present remarkably quiet, peaceful and law-abiding? And for what purpose? What effect will a general election have on the people? What is the urgency for a general election at the moment? Why can we not follow the precedent set by other countries and postpone the election? So far as the man in the street is concerned, there is very little difference between the two large Parties, and we have not heard as yet what their post-election programmes are to be. Is it the Taoiseach's intention to go to the British and try to recover for the farmers and traders of the country the markets they had in pre-economic war days? Does the Taoiseach propose to seek to get these privileges back or are we still to live on self-sufficiency? Is it the intention of the Fine Gael Party, if returned, to place a fleet of boats on the seas and bring in the raw materials and food which they maintain Fianna Fáil neglected to bring in? I think the country should know what their post-election programme is to be.

Judging by what I know of the country, and I claim to know a certain amount of what the people are thinking, it is possible that Fianna Fáil may be returned, but with a much smaller majority—certainly not a working majority. I suppose that is the natural sequel to any Government's being in power for eight or ten years, but assuming that we have an election and the Taoiseach's Party is returned, what will be the result? Any of three things may happen: Fianna Fáil may remain the Government with the assistance of one of the smaller Parties or groups in the House; we may go to the country again in three, six or nine months; or, in the alternative, they may form a national or coalition Government. In the meantime, our unemployment is going to increase. The poor people find it difficult to get firing, which is bad and dear, while food is also scarce and difficult to procure. Suppose a new Government does try to carry on without a majority, do we think it will be a success? A Government depending on another Party, properly speaking not responsible to the country, would be impossibly handicapped.

Deputy Mulcahy has stated that if his Party is returned, they will form a national Government, but, strange to say, the Leader of his Party is very reticent on the matter. Deputies will remember that I moved in this direction some years ago. Perhaps I was rather premature on that occasion, but if I was premature then, I am some years late now, because, as soon as war was declared, a national Government should have been formed here. If that had taken place, would we be in the wretched position in which we are to-day? Therefore, I think that if we do not follow the precedent set by other countries and postpone the election, a national Government should be formed immediately and so save the country unnecessary expense and possible disturbance at a time when Ministers should be hourly in touch with the affairs of their own Departments.

I presume the Taoiseach will speak at an early stage of this discussion. It is said that he is rather shy about proposing a national Government. I put it to him now: is he, in the interests of the country, willing to act, and I ask Deputy Cosgrave whether, if the Taoiseach moves, he would, in the interests of the nation, be willing to accept the suggestion, or must we go to the country and widen the cleavage which at present exists between the two Parties. I have received numbers of letters during the last couple of months on this matter and they all ended with the question: must the Party come before the country?

Mr. Byrne

I second the motion. It was stated in this House a couple of months ago that an election will cost the State £52,000 and that the candidates or their Parties will spend another £52,000 at the very least—an expenditure of good money which, in my opinion, could be put to better uses. In regard to making arrangements and finding out the possibilities of securing the supplies for an election in the way of paper and envelopes, a number of candidates told me that they made inquiries from their printers and were informed that they could not get sufficient paper to issue election addresses or sufficient envelopes to enable them to avail of the special delivery facilities afforded to candidates. Deputy Cole has spoken of transport. It is well known to every man here that a very large number of people are brought to the polls in transport supplied by the candidates or their Party organisations. That transport is not now available which means that a very large number of people who might like to vote will not be able to travel to the poll, which will result in a very small poll, indeed, which in turn might result in giving an unrepresentative Dáil.

When it was rumoured that an election would take place before the summer months—in the dark evenings of last November—Deputy Cole and I, seeing the impossibility of the early election which was predicted at that time, made inquiries and were told by returning officers and sheriffs all over Ireland that if they were approached by the Government they would give the Government their view as to the impossibility of carrying out an election at that time: that if an election had to take place, the earliest possible time would be June or July; and that they would appeal to the Government to ensure that, if an election took place, they would get the proper facilities. Half the schools in Ireland—I might say seven-eights of the schools, including even our big schools in the City of Dublin—which are polling stations, have no lighting facilities whatever. We are aware that we cannot get candles, although I was told that in the last election candles had to be used in some of the schools. We cannot get paraffin oil. I was told that the lighting conditions at that election were very much neglected, but I had no experience of that. Having regard to all these points, I ask the Taoiseach to consider them before arriving at any hasty decision.

Another serious point which would have affected every candidate is that if an election were rushed at the time originally suggested, namely, November or December, or over the Christmas period, the 1942-43 register would not be ready. At that time we saw the danger of an election being rushed before the new register was ready. The new register will not be out until the 1st June next at the earliest, and if we are plunged into an election now or at an early date on the old register, the election will be contested on a register containing the names of at least 250,000 people who are not in the country to vote. That will lead to other effects so far as elections are concerned. Those 250,000 people who are away will have no opportunity of expressing their views as to who is to govern them in future, and who will make arrangements to see that they are provided for when they come home.

That is another reason for postponing the election until at least six months after the emergency. But, supposing all these difficulties were overcome, there remains the greatest of all reasons why the election should be postponed. Even in the heart of the City of Dublin we see posters on the walls calling on farmers to grow more wheat, and pointing out the thousands of extra acres required to produce our food supplies. If an election takes place now, or in the near future, who will accept the serious responsibility of taking these people who should be engaged on the farms helping to produce our food supplies away from their work and diverting them into cumainn, or into canvassing for their favourite candidates, thus neglecting a duty that is most essential to the population—namely, the growing of food?

Then, again, our own local supply position is serious. Our gas supply is curtailed. We have no coal. Our electricity supply is rationed. Unemployment undoubtedly is on the increase, because of the failure to get supplies. It is true that the materials cannot be got. Take the present condition of the building trade, for instance. They cannot get the raw materials to build houses for people urgently in need of them. An extraordinary position has arisen in the City of Dublin which we never thought we would see, and that is: that the municipality had condemned old houses which had started to fall down, and closed them up in the hope that they could pull them down. But because the contractors said that they could not get materials to build new houses, the municipality had put by a reasonable sum of money to pull down every second one of these houses, and with the materials they would get from these houses try to put the others which were condemned in good order and condition. That is the position we are faced with, so far as building materials are concerned.

Is there any post-war planning at the moment? Are we going to divert the attention of Deputies and officials from post-war planning when we should be preparing for the time when a very large number of our people will return to this country and will expect us to do something for them? Are we to devote that time now to preparation for an election? If, for instance, something happened and, within the course of a week or two, we took up our morning paper and saw that the emergency was over, that would mean the return to this country of a very large number of our people. What will we do for them? Some weeks ago I stated here that upwards of 50,000 Irish workmen who had crossed the Channel to get work were out of benefit in the unemployment insurance scheme here. If they came home now they would have two or three years' British unemployment stamps on their cards, but we are told by the Government that these stamps would be useless to them. I appealed to the Government at that time to pay a contribution into that fund for these men so as to keep them in benefit. In that way they would at least have these benefits to draw when they come back. But I understand that nothing has been done about that.

I do not wish in this debate unduly to criticise the Government or to use this occasion for any carping criticism of past policy. But the rapidly increasing and sky-high rise in prices is making it very difficult for our people to live. We have done nothing to control prices, and it is becoming a serious problem. I want to appeal to the Taoiseach to take his courage in his hands and not be swayed by any atmosphere created in this House that he is afraid or that anybody else is afraid to face the public. Irishmen have shown on occasions that they have only to be told they are afraid to get them to do something to show they are not afraid, and occasionaly they blunder into doing the wrong thing.

Let me say that the Taoiseach and his followers make the one big mistake that most Parties make. They think they have the pick of the brains of the country on their Front Bench. That is not so—far from it. They have a number of reasonably good men. But there are equally as good men on the Opposition Front Bench who have had practical experience of government. I would suggest to the Taoiseach that before deciding on an election, before we are plunged into the turmoil and disasters that may follow such a decision, he should invite the Opposition to send over four or five of their men to his Front Bench, and that a similar invitation should be given to the Labour Party to send at least two members. I would go further, if it is permissible under the Constitution, and under the various Acts of Parliament dealing with the matter; I would go outside the Oireachtas altogether and I would ask a number of our successful businessmen to join the Cabinet and help until the war is over. There is a number of such men. They have no glamour about them, no appeal that they could make to the country that would get people to vote for them, but is that any reason why the Government of the day should not invite them to come in and help? It was done in Great Britain in the last Great War, 1914 to 1918. Outsiders were invited to come in. They were very successful men indeed and did splendid work for their country.

I support Deputy Cole. I believe that the pooling of the brains of all Parties in a national Government is our only hope. A couple of years ago I suggested a national Government. Shortly after I had made that suggestion a Defence Conference was set up. We took it for granted that that Defence Conference would take the place of a national Government, and that the members of the Dáil would be informed through the Defence Conference of what was going on, that we would not have to wait to read in the newspapers, during an adjournment of the House, that we were near a major danger, that something was about to happen. Rumours circulated all over the country as to dangers that threatened. People spoke about it. Newspapers were not allowed to publish any of these things and give the truth. The people were allowed to live on rumours. Rumours are more dangerous than actual facts, no matter how bad they may be. I suggest to the House that the Defence Conference should have more liberties. The Defence Conference should tell the ordinary members of the House, the ordinary back benchers, what is the position. We are elected by the people to represent them and we are entitled to know what is going on, so that we may calm the people and prevent rumours from doing damage. The publication of the truth is far better than to allow rumours to go about.

I do make an appeal to the Labour Party, too. They represent a very large body of people and I make the suggestion to them that, for the time being, until the emergency is over, they should go in and make their suggestions to the Government, any suggestions that they may have in mind for the improvement of the lot of the people. If they have these suggestions, we ought to be told what they are, and I am satisfied that they would get a good deal of support from people who are not labelled as members of their Party. I say that every member of this House, regardless of Party, is as much interested in the working-class people of the country and as anxious to improve their position as any member of the Labour Party either in this House or outside. We all desire an opportunity to improve their lot.

I have been, possibly, one of the severest critics of the Government in that direction. If any man or woman in this State, no matter of what class or creed, whether rich or poor, merchant or worker, has a grievance, I have accepted it as my job to expose that grievance and to do everything possible to have it remedied. Therefore, I suggest to the Labour Party that they should put forward their proposals and they may get a surprise as to the number of people who will support them in any remedy they may have for improving the situation.

Close your eyes, open your mouth and see what Alfie will send you.

Mr. Byrne

The Minister for Local Government and Public Health is jeering and laughing. I ask the Taoiseach, is it right for the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, Deputy MacEntee, to jeer at anybody and laugh on such an important occasion, when he knows in his heart that every man in the country, except those who are ambitioning positions, does not want an election? What is he jeering at? What is he laughing at? Is it because I invited the Labour Party to throw in their lot and suggested that two of them should sit on those benches, that he laughs and gibes? I was never more serious in my life. If I thought that by retiring from my own seat to-morrow, to give it to anybody, it would help the position, I would retire.

He laughs at those who are looking for the positions.

Mr. Byrne

Looking for what?

What the Deputy said.

Mr. Byrne

I am prepared to accept any interruption and any question to justify my attitude here to-day. I am quite anxious to justify my position here to-day. I make this appeal because, for the last 12 months, I have met no man in the country who said I was wrong and that Deputy Cole was wrong in asking for a national Government. Sometimes there is a personal reference in a nasty way, such as, "What are you politicians doing?"— as if there was something wrong in the name "politician". What are we doing? We are all, I hope, doing our best, and that kind of gibe gets us nowhere, because somebody will have to come in and do the work to the best of their ability, whether they are called politicians or not. They can call me what they like. I am always prepared to justify anything I have done in this House or outside. I know that if every member was free to speak—I do not care to what Party he belongs—and if he was not tied to Party machinery, at least 90 per cent. would stand up and say: "The country does not want an election. I personally do not want it, and I hope Deputy Cole's and Deputy Byrne's motion will be passed." But Party machinery will not allow that to be done. I am not belittling Party machinery. I fully appreciate that Party machinery and Party discipline have to be respected in order to carry out government.

I have another dread. If a general election is forced on us now— remembering France—please remember France—we all know that there is going to be no unity of purpose in the country such as would be given by one Party having a big majority. Most of the Deputies will come back and no Party will have a majority. A coalition Government would have to be formed and there may be two Parties who may refuse to enter a coalition Government. Supposing Fine Gael, the Independents and the Farmers between them get a majority, a slight majority —possibly not a working majority—and they form a Government, we all know that on some big issue involving, say, allowances to workers, or some money matters in connection with big schemes, if the Government has only a narrow majority, the other side some day will unite and will come into the lobbies and put out the Government. I dread that happening, because I can see an election being held in June, another in September, and probably three or four months later still another election—a series of elections that will give no one Party a majority.

The country is not ready for an election. I suggest to the Opposition that they ought to let the Government stay as they are, to continue in office, and, when the proper time comes, face the electorate and say: "Here is what they have done wrong. How long more are you going to stand it?" I think there is a reasonable way out. I think the Government would be improved very much if the occupants of the benches on both sides joined forces.

Who can guarantee a free election? Can we have a free election? I think members of the House are aware that we cannot have a free election. If we cannot have a free election, we will get a Parliament that will not be representative of the constituencies. In view of those circumstances, I earnestly appeal to the Taoiseach, and to the Government generally, to send a heartening message to the people, to the supporters of all Parties, informing them that it is desirable to put the general election off until six months after the emergency. Tell the people that no election will take place until the emergency has passed. Tell them that so far as persons in authority are concerned, they are going to devote all their time to looking after the interests of the people—growing more food and providing supplies of all kinds. Inform the people that a post-war planning committee will be established to make arrangements for supplies of coal, building materials and other articles, so as to have those things ready when the emergency comes to an end.

We talk a lot about the farmers and praise them highly. They are worthy of our praise, but I remember when the last war came to an end the farmers who had done so much during the period of the war were thrown on the scrap heap. They lost their markets. I remember the late Mr. Hogan, when he was Minister for Agriculture—God be good to him-bringing in legislation to prevent the banks from driving the farmers out of business. I remember him introducing legislation to prevent banks and other institutions, which advanced money on land at the peak period, driving the farmers out. I earnestly ask the Government to show that their appreciation of the farmers will be given practical effect to when the hard times arrive.

I see that an amendment has been tabled to our motion, an amendment suggesting that the Defence Conference should be asked to consider and report whether there is any reason for not holding a general election. I think the Defence Conference ought to consider and report on this matter. As a matter of fact, I think the Defence Conference should have issued a report of their own long before now, telling us of the dangers that are linked up with the holding of a general election, in view of the present state of the country, with its unemployment and a certain amount of destitution. The people are suffering certain hardships, and these people well may say: "A plague on all your houses." If there were an election, I believe we would get the smallest poll ever recorded in the country, and we would have Deputies returned here who would not be in a position to say that they truthfully represented the country. I earnestly appeal to the Taoiseach to send a heartening message, such as I have suggested, to the people.

Might I congratulate the proposer and seconder of the motion that is before the House on their very excellent speeches? While saying that, I should like to add, in no discourteous way, that in spite of the excellence of both speeches, they were particularly unconvincing. A very poor case was made through two particularly excellent speeches. I should like to call the attention of the House to what we are being asked to do this evening.

Is the Deputy moving the amendment?

I shall deal with that presently. I should like to draw attention to what we are being asked to do this evening. A case has been presented, featured in the newspapers and, I would say, featured here this evening in a negative kind of way, as if the Dáil was sitting down merely to postpone an election in a voluntary kind of way. I regard the proposition that is put before the House as a much more serious thing, one which places a very grave personal responsibility not only on Parties, but on every individual Deputy. What we are being asked to do this evening is to deprive the people of their legal right to re-elect others in our places if they are dissatisfied with our work. The people of this country have a legal right, and it is proposed this evening to deprive them of that right. On the balance of the pros and cons, if we are convinced that there is a particularly serious situation and that we may bring that danger nearer to us by a general election, and if a very strong, sound and convincing case were made, we are entitled to deprive the people of that legal right, but not otherwise.

We are, for the time being, the guardians and custodians of perhaps the youngest free nation of the world. We have reached our twenty-first year. Every one of us, Independent Deputies, Government Deputies, Labour Deputies, and Deputies sitting on these benches are conscious of the responsibility that is on us as representatives in the Parliament of a young State. Every one of us are democrats, every one of us are wedded to the democratic theory of government. Democracy is a machine that is barely 21 years old in this country. If we are believers in the democratic machine, if we believe that it is the proper system for a country, just as the strength of a chain is the strength of its weakest link, the strength and the test of democracy is its capacity to function in difficult times, in times of emergency, in times of danger, not just its capacity to function in calm and easy days when there is no strain placed upon it. As a strong believer in democratic principles and in the real strength of the democratic machine, I do not think any case has been made, or that anybody attempted to make a case, why we should lose faith in democracy, override that machine, and say that the democratic machine is good enough for easy days, for the calm days of peace, but is not the thing for days of emergency. It is very easy to establish precedents, but when they are established it is not so easy to break away from them. If we in this Parliament lightly or frivolously snatch from the people their legal right to have an election in the legal period, there will be other Parliaments after us which, even for lighter motives, will postpone elections, perhaps not only for a period, but for lengthy periods. I would not like to establish any precedent that is not a sound precedent.

The other side of the question is this, that the Independent Deputies who moved and spoke to this motion have given long and excellent service in this country. They are cautious of its welfare, but they are not going to claim a monopoly in that respect. There are men over there, there are men behind me, and men alongside me, who do not require at this stage to give any assurance to the people of their thought, their consideration, and their anxiety for the welfare of the country, either in peace or war. Those Deputies in the different Parties have just as great a sense of what is proper, what is safe, and what is right for this country, and if such Deputies in their hearts felt that it was a wrong thing to allow the people to exercise their rights, there would be many more names to a motion such as this, and it would be moved, perhaps, by Leaders of the various Parties that make up this Parliament. When the motion first appeared on the Order Paper, and in association with the atmosphere and the conversations that took place in conjunction with it, I understood from the Press, and from other conversations, that the motion to postpone the election would be based on military danger to this country; that the case made would be that a general election would invite or bring military danger nearer.

After consultation, I think every Deputy in every Party will agree that, as a neutral country in the midst of warring countries, if we were to have a debate on the possibility of invasion by any one of the belligerent countries, it would be definitely dangerous to have such a debate in public, with the Press and public taking down the views, the fears, and the prophecies of each and every one of us, and that if the motion was moved in the spirit that there was danger in an election, the only safe and responsible way in which such a matter could be considered between the Parties wasin camera, away from publicity, where considered views could be frankly and freely exchanged, without danger of giving offence to any other country, or making a dangerous position more difficult and dangerous. It was in that particular atmosphere, and to meet the possibility of such a case being made, that the amendment was put down. In view of the case made here to-day, a case very far removed from the atmosphere of military danger, I do not propose to move the amendment now before the House. I listened with very great attention, and with great interest, to the statements made by the proposer and seconder of the motion. I am not standing up to challenge any of the statements made by them. They pointed out at length the difficulties of a coming election, the lack of transport and the lack of paper. There must be difficulties about doing any job of work in the present situation. But it is the task of responsible people to carry on as nearly as possible to normal, in spite of difficulties, and I would rather have these two Deputies in particular preaching the gospel of how to surmount difficulties, and how to face them, rather than advising the Parliament of the people to shirk a responsibility because it is difficult. Everything that could be done is being done to surmount these difficulties.

The Minister for Local Government has already made provision for a very much increased number of polling stations, so that nobody will have to travel more than a couple of miles to polling places. Yet we have it said that great numbers of people will not be able to record their votes. Let us be realistic. The people of this country, of all creeds, are careful to attend to their religious duties. They practise their religion, they attend their churches, their children go to schools, even the very youngest, in the worst weather. Business at fairs and markets is being attended to. There is scarcely a living soul over seven years of age that does not travel considerably further every day of their normal lives than they would be asked to travel on polling days in order to record their votes. A case could be made that this was going to be a very abnormal type of election. Let that case stand on sound legs. Do not let us have exaggerations. Deputy Byrne gave us a picture of things that might happen as a result of an election. I am a member of a Party with a certain amount of machinery behind it, and with a certain amount of information from the different constituencies. I may have views that very much differ from those of Deputy Byrne.

I do not think it is wise at any time to argue with a prophet. If anybody presumes to tell me what is going to happen in six or 12 months' time, I just do not argue. I may say, "I hope so", or "I hope not", but it would be idle for me to put my ideas as to what will happen before the Dáil, and expect the Dáil to accept them. I believe that, no matter what Parliament comes here as a result of the election, whether many or few of us lose our seats, it will be a Parliament representative in the broadest way of the decent Irish people. I have enough faith in an Irish Parliament, no matter how it is constituted, whether by a multiplicity of Parties, by a pair of Parties, by a Party with a dominating majority or by a number of Parties without any one of them having a majority; I have enough faith in the plain, decent, honest Irish people and in the representatives of those people, the chosen elected representatives, to know that this Parliament, under no circumstances, will let the people down, or the State down. As Deputy Byrne has pointed out, one of the worst things that might happen is, that you will have a Parliament where no Party will have an over-all majority. I say that in no acrimonious or controversial way in dangerous and difficult times, but I would be as happy to place my faith in that Parliament, to place my future and the future of everyone that is dear to me in it as I would in a Parliament in which there was an over-all majority, even, say, of my own Party. We all know that responsibility brings out the best, and not the worst, that is in people; that if there was more responsibility on individual Deputies the best would be brought out of each one of us, and that if there was more responsibility thrown on the Parliament as a whole it would be a better Parliament, likely to achieve better results for the people who are dear to all of us. When the only real horror that could be held up to us, as the possible outcome of an election, was that of a Parliament which had not a Party in it with a dominant over-all majority, then I think I am entitled to say, in the friendliest way in the world, that whether or not there is a sound case to be made for this motion we did not hear it made by either the proposer or seconder.

There was one suggestion made, and made with the best intentions in the world, that a general election might interfere with the cohesion and the team spirit of the auxiliary defence services in this State. In no insincere way I want to say this that if I believed there was anything in a suggestion of that kind—and each of us can only be guided by our own beliefs— if I thought there was any danger of that or the remotest likelihood of that happening, then, speaking for myself, I would be decidedly in favour of postponing the election. But I have as much faith in the men and women who, in one form or another, came forward to help their native land, either by their services or by the offer of their lives, as the Minister for Justice has. I was glad to read the tribute which he paid to those excellent men and women in a recent speech. I subscribe to the statement made by him. Men and women with the patriotism, with the civic sense that was shown by those who came forward to man the various auxiliary defence services, to man the aid services, are not of the type that are in any way lacking in a sense of service to the State. They are as disciplined, as loyal and as patriotic as the excellent officers, N.C.O.'s and men that make up our National Army, and it would be an insult for anyone to suggest that the discipline, the cohesion or the loyalty of Ireland's Army would be, to the slightest extent, interfered with because the people were asked to vote for one of us as against the other. That applies to the Army with truth, and applies at least equally to all those grand men and women, boys and girls, who came forward, purely as volunteers in an unpaid capacity, to assist the country in a time of emergency and stress.

I see no danger of any interference with those forces. It is a thing to be considered; it is a thing that was very fully and very seriously considered by the Party on whose behalf I am speaking at the moment. We did not take the line that an election should be held or should not be held without making up our minds what exactly we were proposing to do, and if we called for a postponement of the elections, to what extent we were interfering with the obvious rights of the simplest people. We were conscious of the fact—I make no denial of it one way or the other because I am trying to put the case as fairly as I can—that there is a very considerable number of people who would welcome no election at the present moment. It is true that at any time, if there was no war, no emergency or anything else, you will always have a considerable number of people who would rather not have an election. To a great extent you will find the majority of business people, people who are finding life more easy and more pleasant than a great number of others, people of ease and of wealth, people engrossed in their own business averse to a general election at any time. I am not suggesting at the moment that those are the only people. I am aware of that fact— Deputy McGovern called attention to it in our discussions—that a great number of bodies in the County Cavan, representative of all sections, were against a general election, but there are masses and masses of plain, decent, simple poor people who are not vocal in the ordinary sense, who do not command columns or paragraphs in the Press, who are not members of any of the organised bodies that can get publicity, who are not, in the main, attached to any one of the Parties here, and yet they like to feel that once in five years they are masters of the situation. It is that feeling—it may be a small thing—that once in five years at the outside they are the masters that keep the masses of the nation united behind a Government and a Parliament in hard times.

It would be injurious to let the suggestion trickle out that a group of Deputies, whatever the number may be, entered into an intrigue or conspiracy—that is the way the saboteur propagandist would put it—to extend their own political lives. Every one of us knows the power of propaganda. Every one of us in our time was the victim of propaganda. True propaganda is, as a rule, harmless. The value or the damage of propaganda can be measured by the length or breadth or depth—whatever the word is—of its untruth. The whisper would go around that, in order that certain people would remain in office and others remain in salary, by our own votes we deprived the people of their rights. No matter how clamorous some people may be now for postponing the election, I am firmly convinced that the result of this Parliament prolonging its own life would be bad. There were certain objections, certain difficulties, mentioned here and in discussions elsewhere, with regard to an election, but I think it would be healthier for every one of us, as representatives of free men and free women, as fellow democrats, as firm believers in the democratic machine and in its capacity to work in dangerous times as well as in easy times, to combine in order to try to surmount whatever difficulties may be there, and in order to try to remove whatever dangers may be there.

I know that some people are uneasy about a general election, because they say that, if anything happened between the date of dissolution and the polling day, so that the polling did not take place, we would have a country without a Parliament—with a Government but without a Parliament. Some people are anxious on that particular point. It is not that they feel that that is likely to happen, but they feel that there is a possibility, no matter how remote, that it may happen. Such a contingency could and should be met by an Emergency Order, somewhat to the effect that Parliament would remain in being until the next Parliament is appointed. I think the efforts of each one of us should be directed towards surmounting the difficulties, towards easing any legitimate public anxiety, towards injecting into the people a pride in democracy, towards inspiring them with the feeling that it is a grand thing that even in bad times the Parliament of the country is going down to the people for a fresh mandate, that the length of our existence and the measure of our power is the length of existence and the measure of power that the people give us.

Irrespective of what the outcome may be, irrespective of numbers, I believe that, if the mandate of each and every one of us were renewed, receiving fresh life and fresh vigour from the people, we would come back here with new strength and new enthusiasm, facing up to the fact that we have a new vital life of five years, and that within those five years the probability if not the certainty is that great, far-reaching world changes will take place, and that every one of us will have to play his part in that new world, in the more difficult days, and even the more dangerous days that follow the difficult and dangerous days of the war. Even countries at war experience this: that although the time of war is a trying time, a difficult time, a tragic time, the consolation behind all that, and the fact that gives them strength is that war brings out the very best that is in the people. Whatever group of men are charged with the responsibility of leading the country through war have something like the solid support of the nation behind them. But the aftermath of war is worse. It is more difficult. It is the time when the slump comes, when the really big problems loom up, when the munition works and all that kind of thing close down. That is the time when there is less force behind a Government and more difficulties in front of them. It is then that more vigour; more strength, more life, are required in Parliament and in Government.

No matter what the popular view of the man on the street may be, I really think that, when the pros and cons are weighed up, no group with a sense of responsibility, with an opportunity of exchanging views, with an opportunity to look at both sides of the question, would take responsibility for saying that the present situation justifies us in depriving the masses of the people of a right which they have at the present time. I do not think there is one group that would say that. I do not think there is anyone who will not agree with me that, when we look into the immediate years ahead, years perhaps of danger, years certainly of difficulty, that a Government, some Government, even the present Government, would be better and stronger and more capable if they had a fresh mandate from the people, if they got a renewed backing from the people, if responsibility were placed on them anew to face the coming five years, to face those difficult five years as a group, a team. The propagandist could not then say: "They prolonged their own lives. If they had gone to the people, they would have got short shrift." That is what would be said about the Government; that is what would be said about Opposition Deputies, and it would be said by many people who are at the moment urging the postponement of the election. All of us have had experience of propaganda.

The suggestion was made here to-day —it was previously made elsewhere— that we should postpone the election by having a national Government, and the Taoiseach was invited to give his views on that. I do not want to take responsibility for answering anybody else's question.

The view held over here with regard to the capacity of a national Government in difficult times is that there is a lot to be said for it. I believe that in times of danger and difficulty the maximum amount of confidence and support should be mobilised behind any and every Government and that confidence and support in political matters is to a very great extent a mathematical affair. The amount of confidence and support behind any group or Party is the strength of that Party. Whereas political opponents may give support, and usually do, full confidence naturally cannot go with that support. In other words if you had a Government of four Parties, you would have mobilised behind that Government all the support and confidence behind each of the four Parties. These remarks apply to a national Government brought about in an ordinary, normal way because of difficulties or because of an emergency, but what would happen if a national Government were brought about in order to postpone or avert a general election?

I put this in all sincerity to both Deputy Cole and Deputy Byrne. If the various Parties here—I am merely putting the picture—came together to-night in order to form a national Government and postpone an election, every malicious slanderer in the country would get busy to-night and that new national Government would be deluged in the mire of slanderous propaganda. If and when there is a national Government in this country, I want to see that that Government gets a fair chance and, above all, a fair start. A national Government brought about by groups and individuals whose legal political life was running out, in order, as it would be said, to prolong that life by a sharing of offices and extending their life as Parliamentary Deputies, would have no chance. It would have a very brief life, a very painful life, so much so that, in time to come, when many discords and divisions that may exist at the present moment are forgotten and merely history, the painful experience of such a national Government, one brought into being under such circumstances and experiencing such a fate, would discourage and dissuade people in the future from coming together in the common interest.

People who suggest a national Government, amalgamations, mergers, team-work, working together in the same council chamber, make those suggestions in the best faith in the world but they overlook the fact that you have malicious propagandists and, whatever you do, do not pass ammunition to the pen and the tongue of the malicious propagandist. If a national Government is needed for the country, then let that national Government come about in a new Parliament with a new mandate, with five years of legal life in front of it and do not put it into anybody's mouth to strangle that combination at birth by implying to it the very worst, the most corrupt, mercenary methods.

We over here, having weighed up and seriously considered all that can be said for and against, are finally brought up against the point: Are we justified in depriving the people of a legal right which is theirs at the moment? Is there sufficient danger, is there sufficient difficulty to justify us in denying the ordinary plain people the legal exercise of their right? We came to the conclusion that we would not be so justified. If and when the Government decides to have this election, we have enough confidence and faith in the men and women of this country to feel that in serious times they will look on an election as one of the most serious rights and serious responsibilities, that they will go through with the election with dignity, and come out of the election with respect. I have so much faith in the people of this country that I believe their behaviour in a war election will be such that I only hope that Deputies and candidates will model their behaviour on the behaviour of the grand men and women by whom it will be decided.

Although I disagree with Deputy Dr. O'Higgins, ten years close association with him and his colleagues entitles me to repeat publicly the platitude that everyone in this country must know to-day, that in opposing this motion they are actuated by nothing but solicitude for the best interests of the country, and a complete indifference to their own interests, political or material. The mere knowledge of that fact, however, does not compel any of us to see eye to eye with their view of the situation. On the contrary, I think the best interests of the State and the community would be served by a postponement of the general election. Deputy O'Higgins rebuts that proposal on two grounds as it seemed to me. Firstly he says that there is no gravity in the present situation which would justify the positive act of withdrawing from the people their legal right to pass judgment on Parliament and secondly he asks how could a national Government be formed from the existing Parliament. So violent and vituperative would be the false propaganda directed against it, he thinks that it would be utterly discredited in the eyes of the people and that even perhaps the very concept of a national Government would become loathsome in the eyes of the Irish people in whose ears it had been so maligned by propagandists.

To deal with the first point, if there is nothing in the present situation so urgent as to justify the postponement of the election, I find myself somewhat in a quandary because we, elected representatives of the Irish people, find in the present situation danger sufficiently urgent to justify the suspension of the Constitution, the suspension of habeas corpus, the suspension of trial by jury, the suspension of the law of evidence, and the suspension of the freedom of the Press. Every most treasured liberty of free men has been willingly sacrificed, in the period of this emergency, on the ground that the community's danger is so great that all these vital interests of free democrats must, for the time being, go by the board. There is here no proposal to abolish the system whereunder people are allowed to elect Parliament, there is in the motion before us no suggestion that the democratic system should be abolished, nor is there any suggestion that there should be substituted for the people's elected representatives some other class of person. Every man and woman who sits in this House sits in it because a certain group of the electorate wishes him or her to do so. Every one of us is a representative of the people, with the fullest possible right that elected Deputies in any country in the world could have to sit in Parliament.

There is no question that we should give place to some others who have no mandate from the people. All this proposal says is that, if we think that the situation demands a suspension of the Constitution, of habeas corpus, of trial by jury, of the law of evidence and of the freedom of the Press, so long as we believe these things to be vital to the preservation of the State, we should abstain from the democratic luxury of inviting the people to choose new Deputies, lest, in the period of uncertainty that must obtain while the choice is being made—and, indeed, between this day and the day on which the choice is made—some serious difficulty might arise which would have to be confronted by a weakened Government, a Government faced with the knowledge that it had to go to the country and come back, perhaps, no longer a Government, but with some other Party in the ascendancy. No one can deny that, from the moment that the dissolution of Parliament is declared to be about to take place, the authority of the existing Government inevitably becomes weakened in some degree, because there is the possibility —even the probability—that it will not come back in the same strength as at present.

Everyone knows that, in the present state of the country, a general election may result in the return to this House of several Parties, not one of which will be large enough to form a Government. Then we will be called upon to form a national Government, at the conclusion of a vigorous political campaign. I have no doubt that the responsible leaders of the Opposition and of the Government Party will enter the campaign with every desire to preserve restraint and control their language and to argue on merit rather than on personality. But political campaigns are political campaigns, and when one has returned hot from the hustings is scarcely the most appropriate time to settle down and collaborate in coalition for the ensuing period of five years. Deputy O'Higgins has said that to attempt to form a national Government now would be to invite the propagandist's criticism. Surely, in the day that public men in a democracy allow their actions to be controlled by the blackmail of lying propaganda, democracy itself is doomed. I do not believe that the Leader of the Opposition would allow his judgment in this or any other matter to be swayed for one single instant by the threat of lying propaganda. Throughout a long and honourable public life he has faced barrage after barrage of lying propaganda and his reputation in this country is, at the present moment, ample refutation of the contention by Deputy O'Higgins that lying propaganda can dim the glory of splendid service.

If that apprehension merely should deter responsible and prudent men, may I put it that, if we form a national Government now while there are three main Parties in Dáil Eireann —and I think we should—and if that national Government, having functioned for a month or for six months, came to the conclusion that the barrage of misrepresentation and propaganda was becoming so formidable as to jeopardise the success of its efforts, could not that National Government then declare an election and go to the country, not as a political Party but as a national Government, against the detractors? Then, from the date when the dissolution would be announced, there would be no instability, no uncertainty, no doubt, as to what Government would be returned. Any confusion, alarm or despondency would be in the minds of those who indulged in lying propaganda and who were now called to the hustings to prove the charges they were so free in throwing about. The people would know—and the outside world would know—that the Government that went to the country was coming back from the country, that the Government benches in this House, the Government buildings and the Taoiseach's position would be occupied by the same men and the same man after the election as before the election, and that the general policy that was about to be pursued before the election was called would remain the general policy that would be pursued after the verdict of the people had been secured.

There would be no trace of instability, no serious doubt in the minds of rational men, as to what the result of that election would be. There would be something infinitely precious in the public life of this country and that is a demonstration of the fact that the leaders of political Parties here scorn the weapons of the blackmailing propagandist, challenge boldly the lying propagandist to throw his mud and trust confidently to the verdict of the Irish people to wash off any of it that might, in the course of the conflict, have stuck. That is the kind of verdict I would like a Government here to get from our people in this time, if such a verdict is deemed necessary at all.

I venture to say that, if a national Government were formed to-morrow, consisting of the leaders of the three political Parties, 90 per cent. of the misapprehension about lying propaganda rendering that Government obnoxious in the eyes of the people, would vanish into thin air. Whether it did or not, we would have the certainty of an unbreakable weapon in the hands of the people to meet it. Were it to assume formidable proportions the people would be there, with a strong Government to go to them and to come back. You are all agreed on the one great issue that must confront every sovereign nation in the world at the present time. You all want to maintain neutrality in the present world conflict; what other great issue is there? It would be legitimate and right if there were a division amongst you, amongst the Deputies here, Sir, on so fundamental an issue as that, to say: "Naturally they could not combine in a national Government, because a matter of the highest principle divides them." But you are all agreed on that, you all believe that the policy of the Government in maintaining neutrality is right, you are all defending that in the country. That being so, what stands between you and collaboration?

Does any Deputy on the Government benches deny that there is material on the Opposition benches which would strengthen them in this time of stress and difficulty? Do Deputies on either of those two benches deny the assertion that it would be a good thing if the Government of this country at present contained representatives of the Labour Party? I think that I can claim Fine Gael already as an advocate of that eminently desirable policy and of having pledged itself to secure it at the earliest possible date after the election. The Labour Party has not yet declared its attitude in this matter, but I cannot imagine that, if asked to share the burden of responsibility and stress which rests on the shoulders of the Government, they would run away. I believe they could shoulder that burden just as well as any other section in this House.

It is perfectly true to say that nobody can issue that invitation, or that nobody can make that suggestion, except the Taoiseach, or his Party in this House. It is perfectly true to say that, according to all standards of democratic practice, the Taoiseach has the right to do so, inasmuch as he commands a majority in this House, and that is by no means to say that candidates shall not be allowed to put their views before the electorate. If there is to be a collaboration and full confidence, with a view to meeting the emergencies of the hour, and if the people of this country can express their views, on the hustings, if needs be, in a joint endeavour for the common good of our country, then the invitation for that collaboration must come from the Taoiseach, and from no one else. Ultimately, the responsibility for having a general election at this time must rest on the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach said that he cannot now be placed in the position where people could say of him that he sought to protect the life of his own Government by introducing legislation to extend the life of Parliament. He can avoid that charge by not seeking to prolong the life of his own Party, but by seeking to give the Irish people a national Government, such as practically every State in the world, whether neutral or belligerent, has at the present moment, and by leaving it open to the people to decide whether they want belligerency, neutrality, or "non-neutrality". I think that all of us in this House will agree that such collaboration is necessary, and I think that every responsible Deputy in this House must feel, in the back of his mind, that there is some weight in the contention which I now submit.

Now, Sir, I want to say this last word. It is the duty, I suppose, of every Deputy, in an Assembly of this kind, to speak his mind in whatever way he feels right. Some ten years' experience of Dáil Eireann has led me pretty clearly to the conclusion that this matter that we are debating here now was determined at meetings of the Fianna Fáil Party last night or the Fine Gael Party this morning, and I assume that the decisions arrived at mean that we are going to have a general election. If that is so, be it so, but all I want is that, if there is going to be a general election it should be a free election, such as we have had here before. During the course of the past few years, I have said that no members of Parliament in the world were more freely elected than the Deputies of this House, and that no members of a Parliament in the world were acting on more unimpeachable authority than the members of this House, who were elected in as free an election as was ever held or could be held in any country in the world. Give it to us to say that, with regard to the election that is impending, if this is to be a general election in which the people are to pass judgment on Parliament, it will be a free election in that sense, and that every Deputy and every candidate will have the right to tell the people, for whose suffrages he appeals, what he stands for, and that he should have that right, free of any threat from the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures, to intervene and take from him the reality of that right by leaving his statements open to treacherous misrepresentation.

It is true to say—although it may sound something like a jest in some years to come—that a candidate may speak to the people whose suffrages he seeks, and say what he pleases, but every honest man in this country knows that, if his words are excluded from the columns of the Press, he cannot reach the people, and if, over and above that, his words are twisted in the columns of the Press, it means that he is, not only debarred from reaching the people, but that he is misrepresented to the people. Now, to-day, that course is being pursued, and being pursued on the ground that public policy demands the preservation of the State. I beg Deputies of this House not to permit the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures to intimidate them or cajole them into selling their birthright. If we are to be denied now the opportunity of approaching the Irish people, putting our views before them, and taking their verdict upon the true issue, then it means that we have sold our birthright and that, if elected, we will be occupying these seats by false pretences after this election. That is the issue. It is the inescapable issue, and let me remind the House that though it so happens that the activities of that Minister are directed against me at the moment, there was a time when, in the interests of the safety of the State, as he said, he deemed himself entitled to suppress, by means of the censorship, public discussion of the price of wheat; that there was a time when he deemed himself entitled, in defence of the safety of the State, to suppress the details of a discussion of a trade dispute in this country; that there was a time when he deemed himself entitled, in the interests of the safety of the State, to suppress Parliamentary discussion of the rates of allowances paid to the dependents of soldiers in this State. The Minister also deemed himself entitled, again in defence of the safety of this State, to suppress a letter from ex-Senator Milroy, criticising the inconsistency between the Minister's speeches in Dáil Eireann and Dundalk; and the Minister also deemed himself entitled, in defence of the safety of the State, to suppress all discussion of the censorship itself. That is the measure of his claim, but I say that unless the Deputies of this House are prepared to vindicate the right of every candidate, whether he be a member of this House or outside it, to go to the people and claim their suffrages on a true representation of what he stands for, then we sell our birthright and, if after this election we occupy seats in this House, then we occupy them by false pretences. It was suggested here to-day, by the Minister responsible for this censorship, that he did not propose to censor references to neutrality, but only such references as might endanger the safety of the State.

I am afraid the Deputy is going outside the terms of the motion.

I am claiming, Sir, that if there is to be a general election, it should be a free election, and that if it is not to be a free election, it would ruin us and, therefore, that we should postpone the holding of the election until after the present emergency. Surely, I can make that case. I recently went to Monaghan—avowedly for the purpose of telling the people of Monaghan what I stood for, and the grounds on which I proposed to seek their suffrages. In the course of the speech that I made there, I used the following words:—

"In the sphere of international affairs I believe that, amongst many other comparatively trivial issues involved, the fundamental issue of whether men shall be free to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's, is clearly joined between the United Nations on the one hand and the Axis on the other."

I think that has no connection with the motion.

I am submitting, Sir, that any election held, where the speeches of candidates must be suppressed, is a bad election, and that it would be better to postpone such an election until the emergency conditions no longer exist. I further said:—

"I believe that Ireland's material interests are bound up with those of the United States and——"

Bhfuil an Teachta in ordú?

I suggest that this is entirely out of order.

Is this a point of order?

I rule that the matter is out of order.

What matter?

The matters which the Deputy is raising, which I say have no direct connection with the motion. If the Deputy reads the motion, he will see that it is a motion to decide whether or not an election will be held.

Yes, and I am respectfully making the case——

The Deputy is addressing himself to conditions which may arise after an election is held.

I respectfully submit that if the election must be of a character whereunder candidates are not free to tell the people what they stand for, we should not hold the election now.

The House has not decided whether this motion is to be carried or not.

I am asking that they should decide now not to hold an election until we can hold a free election.

I think the Deputy is right in saying that, but he is now going into details of past history.

I want to go into the most meticulous detail. I have nothing to conceal.

The Chair will not listen to the Deputy on that point.

I cannot compel the Chair to listen to me, but surely I am entitled to make my case?

The Chair considers it too much of a personal case in connection with this motion.

There is nothing personal about it. I am stating the broad general principle that if the humblest candidate from the remotest part of Connemara is not entitled to get on the hustings, offer himself to the people and speak openly to the people of the things in which he believes, the election which throws him to one side is a bad election.

The Deputy is right on these general principles, but he is now going on to quote his own personal experience.

Exactly, for the purpose of demonstrating——

The Chair will not listen to these quotations. I must ask the Deputy to refrain from quoting.

Surely if I want to prove to the House that in existing circumstances men are not free to speak to the people of the things in which they believe, how else can I prove it than by showing what has actually happened—that within the last month a candidate standing on a political platform, seeking the suffrages of the people in this pending general election, has been denied the right, has been forbidden to tell the people what he stands for?

Can the Deputy not put down a motion dealing with censorship?

This is what I am putting forward: This House is being asked to send candidates to the hustings, and any candidate who does not agree with the Government is to be denied his right to speak. Is that the kind of election you want? Is that the kind of election you are trying to foist on the people? Is that what you call freedom? Is that what you call vindicating the right of the Irish people to elect their own Government—hog-tying and blinding them, and then forcing them to choose only those whom the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures will allow to address them?

This motion is to prevent an election being held.

I asked that this election be postponed until it is no longer necessary, in the judgment of this House, to allow that Minister to prevent Deputies or candidates in this election from putting their case before the people. I say that already the Minister claims that right. I say that already the Minister, in the exercise of that so-called right, not only seeks to suppress what candidates opposed to him desire to place before the people, but to use the powers of his office to twist it, to misrepresent it and while publicising his version of what was said, to suppress the actual words that were spoken. I call this House to remember the wide variety of topics in respect of which he has deemed himself justified in pursuing that course. I call Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party to remember that some day they may find themselves in a minority, as at one time their leaders did and that, in the darkest and bitterest hour of the internal strife which unhappily disturbed this country, their leaders were never submitted to a censorship or tyranny of that class. When tempers were high, feeling bitter and extravagances likely, they were free to go to the country at the time of a general election and to speak their mind—whatever it was they had to say.

If we are in a situation in which that is no longer possible, if we are in a situation in which it was necessary to invoke the extreme measures I have reiterated here of suspending the Constitution, habeas corpus, trial by jury, the law of evidence, freedom of the Press—aye, and the very freedom of speech itself—surely this is a situation in which we should not attempt to masquerade at holding a general election. If there is to be an election, let it be an election; if there is to be a verdict of the people, let it be a verdict given in full possession of the facts. If we are not in a position to afford the people these things, then let us not have the farce of an election which was decided in ignorance of the issues joined between the candidates.

I ask the Parties in this House, who are agreed on a matter of high principle, on neutrality, to come together now and to form a national Government in the common service of our people. The Minister for Supplies has been rebuked publicly for speaking of great perils in the past. Perhaps he painted the picture too vividly, but had he applied his observations to the future, Deputy O'Higgins's deprecation of prophets notwithstanding, I think the words he employed would be none too strong. The dangers which confront our people in the weeks, the months and possibly the years to come will grow in magnitude and acuteness every week, every month and every year. The people are entitled to look to this Parliament to give them a Government which will have one aim in view—not Party interest, not political advantage, but the preservation of our people from the perils in which they at present stand.

I know that there is material in this Parliament to provide it. I am convinced that a Government so constituted would more than weather any assault of propaganda that might be made upon it, but I know that a Government so constituted could carry the country safely through whatever measures were necessary to rebut and overthrow the lying propaganda of any group of persons inside or outside the State. I have no such assurance if a Party Government goes to a general election and I have no confidence that in the post-election period, after the stress and fury of a general election campaign, an atmosphere would obtain in this House in which it would be possible to form a national Government, incorporating the largest Party in the House. I say that the national Government which does not incorporate the largest Party in the House is a fake national Government. It is not a national Government at all. It is a Government of rags and patches, gathered together in order to keep the largest Party out of office, and that is a Government which cannot survive.

I want to see in this time a national Government truly representative of all sections of our people. I say that the only great question of principle at present is that of neutrality or belligerency. I stand for belligerency and for giving the Allies all the help we can. You do not. You stand for neutrality. You stand for neutrality in the name of the Irish people. Can you not come together then and keep our people safe; as safe as you can make them by your united effort from perils of want and confusion? Gather together, as every group of humans gather together in an hour of peril, to meet danger from without and within. Whatever people may say of us, whatever propagandists may represent you as doing, you have the certainty that it was not for jobs you gathered together, that it was not for personal profit you gathered together. It was because you thought it was right and because you conceived it to be your duty. Surely democratic politicians, if they are to preserve the system of free institutions which we at present enjoy, must regulate their actions in public life not by what they think will be popular, but by what they think to be right. So long as we have, and I believe we have, men in this House with the moral courage to accept that criterion of conduct, democracy and freedom are safe in this country. The day we lack them we may look for dictatorship either from the left or the right.

Deputy O'Higgins said that he wants people of capacity to work democracy in times of stress and that he has full confidence in them. I ask for something higher than that. I ask for the elected representatives of the Irish people to show that they know how to make democracy work in times of stress. I want them to demonstrate to the world that we know that that part of the democratic machine which involves a general election is one reluctantly to be put in motion in a time of stress. I want Deputies, Ministers, leaders of the Opposition, or the Labour Party, with statesmanship, courage and disinterestedness, to scorn the lying propaganda of irresponsibles throughout the State and demonstrate not only to our own people, but to the world that we in Ireland after 21 years of experience know how to make democracy work and are not afraid to work it.

We should not be afraid to do the right thing and have a national Government now as a warning to all potential slanderers and propagandists that their mud will be washed away from a national Government if needs be through the verdict of the people taken at the hustings by that national Government. With that warning, I do not believe that their propaganda will constitute any danger whatever to a national Government of all Parties. We can then declare openly, calmly and deliberately that our collaboration for the period of this crisis is a collaboration for that purpose alone and that it in no way vitiates the resolution of all Parties in this House to return to their peace time allegiance and to bring before the people policies based on their own convictions when peace is once more restored. So that, having suspended the privileges of democracy during the period of crisis, having taken them into trusteeship, the better to preserve them when danger was abroad, we can restore not only the right of election, but the right of free speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of the person, trial by jury, the law of evidence and the right to have general elections, all intact, all safe and all working, to the people from whom we took them as trustees.

When we have done that, we can call thenunc dimittis and we shall have served this country well. There are men in this House capable of doing that and more for Ireland if the Taoiseach had the vision. On his shoulders securely rests the responsibility of determining what road we are about to travel. He can send this country down the road of a general election, at the end of which there stands I know not what, or he can face his traducers and slanderers and propagandists and say: “If others are ready, I am ready. Difficulties there will be and misunderstanding which must be overcome. But for the time of this emergency I ask Fine Gael and Labour to lend me their aid so that we may preserve our trust and together, at the end of this emergency, restore freedom and dignity intact to the Irish people.”

I have had as much opportunity as any Deputy in this House of gauging the minds of the people on this question from moving about the country and I, certainly, say that I only met one man so far who thought there should be an election and that man was a possible candidate. The Taoiseach must be aware of the resolutions passed by various councils. It seemed to me at one time that all the councils all over the State were passing resolutions that there should be no election. I presume these resolutions were forwarded to the Minister for Local Government. The Government must be aware of the apathy of the people during the last county council election Deputy O'Higgins told us, in the course of his speech, that it would be terrible to take away the legal right of the people to vote. Deputy Dillon has told us about all the other things which were taken away and there was no word about them. Those of us who went through the last county council elections know that in some places only 15 per cent. of the people voted—people who were living beside the polling booths. I know of such a case. Yet we are told it would be a terrible crime to deprive these people of their legal rights. The local elections were postponed so that the councils had a spell of eight years the last time and nobody said a word about it. I think the Minister for Local Government can bear me out when I say that there was no protest from any side at the period being extended to eight years instead of three.

We have also heard a lot from Deputy O'Higgins about democracy. There are different views about democracy. The system wants to be chained a bit. We had a recent example of it in Monsieur Laval in France and the state that that country got into through extreme democracy. If this country to-morrow had a farce of an election, as it possibly might be, this country would be a long time getting over that. Everything would be thrown out of gear. We have a considerable amount of unemployment. It would prevent a clear outlook in connection with the aftermath of this war which, I think, will be the biggest problem before this country.

The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures in some of his statements about neutrality said that 99.9 per cent. of the people of the country definitely stood for neutrality. I wonder will he revise his figures again and tell us about the finest young men, the finest blood in this country, running into six figures, who are fighting to-day in the British Army? Are they the odd. 1 per cent.? These young men will come home to this country. Thousands more of our men are working in England and Scotland. They will come home after the war. Are they to be catered for by a Government which has come through a recent fight, perhaps with a reduced majority, perhaps a new Government altogether? Will that Government be in a position to cater for them as the old and tried one would be? I put it to the Taoiseach in this way—does he consider that his team is fit for the job? If he does, let him not be led away by the gibes and jeers of people from other parts of the House.

I have no intention of delaying the House very long in my contribution to this motion. Neither have I any intention of approaching this motion from a Party standpoint. The question at issue in the motion is whether or not the country will operate the normal process of law and have a general election. General elections in our constitutional procedure are a vital democratic link, and the only issue that arises in connection with the matter to-day is the practicability of having an election in present circumstances. It is to that issue, and that issue only, that I propose to address myself.

It is perfectly true, as has been suggested, that there are special difficulties associated with having an election at present. There is a very considerable curtailment of public and private transport services, and these services, in our generation at all events, have come to be regarded as essential for the purpose of the effective holding of an election. There is a very acute shortage of paper and stationery. Stationery, also, has come to be regarded as inevitably associated with the holding of a general election. There is a shortage of paraffin oil for the purpose of lighting polling booths in rural areas. There are other minor difficulties to which I need not advert. It is perfectly true, therefore, that if we decide to have an election this year, we are going to have that election under definite difficulties. But a point arises for consideration at this stage, and that is whether, if we postpone the election until next year or until 1945 or 1946, we will not in fact have greater difficulties than we have to-day. The postponement of an election is not going to dissipate the difficulties. The difficulties may grow. What the House has really to consider, and what the whole nation has to consider, is whether it is not better to have an election now, with the difficulties which we can measure, or postpone the election to next year or the year after, or some year in the future, when we cannot anticipate the difficulties which are then likely to arise. At least, we can measure the existing difficulties. We may not be able to measure the difficulties of next year or the year after. None of us can hope to gauge the difficulties which we may experience in the uncharted seas of the future.

If there is to be an election, I do not see why it should be a kind of Donnybrook fair. It ought to be possible for each and every one of us to conduct the election with all due decorum. There ought to be an agreement beforehand to avoid the personal abuse that sometimes, unhappily, is associated with elections, and it ought to be possible to put our anger on a leash and not to generate any unnecessary heat in the course of the election. If we can agree beforehand to conduct the election on these lines—and if the political Parties agree the people will not break the truce—it ought then to be possible to have, this year or next year—whenever the House decides—an election which, so far as our people are concerned, will be conducted in a good spirit and will in no way create the turmoil which those who have spoken on this motion seem in some way to associate with an. Irish general election.

I think, if we are going to decide to have an election, there are certain preliminary decisions which we ought to take. The policy of neutrality has been supported by all political Parties in this State. That is the one issue upon which all our people are united and intend to remain united. Efforts by, perhaps, Deputy Dillon or others, to get our people to leave the path of neutrality are already foredoomed to failure. If we all agree on the policy of neutrality, if we all agree on the desirability of maintaining neutrality, if we mobilise the resources of the nation in order to safeguard that policy, is there any insuperable difficulty in the political Parties in this country, before a general election, making up their minds that the question of neutrality is not going to be an issue in the election and thus avoid precipitating into the political arena a discussion on a matter upon which all our people are united?

Another matter which calls for consideration, if we are likely to have an election, is the position of the defence forces in this country. The Army, the L.D.F., the L.S.F. and the other magnificent organisations which have been set up, belong to no one political Party. The Army and the auxiliary services belong to the whole people. We, in this Party, take as much pride in them as do the members of the Government Party. Every Party is entitled to feel proud of the Army and of the auxiliary services which represent all Parties in this House. I realise that a magnificent unity has been created in the defence forces as a result of the all-Party appeals which have been made for recruits and as a result of the all-Party appeals which have been made to create and maintain unity in existing circumstances.

I do not want to see that unity impaired during the election, if there is to be an election. I do not think it need be impaired. If the political Parties here will make up their minds that the unity of the Defence Forces will not be impaired by speeches connected with the general election, then we can come through the election with that unity maintained to the full and with the forces which have been created by all political Parties maintained intact for future eventualities. But it is very important that, before the election takes place, all Parties must resolve that the Defence Forces will not be a play-thing of the election, that there will be a complete avoidance of reference to them and a disinclination on the part of all Parties to say that they have more supporters in the Defence Forces than others have. If we make up our mind to avoid reference to the Defence Forces, their composition, their functions, their loyalties, I believe we can come through a general election with the Defence Forces entirely unimpaired. It seems to me then that if, whether this year, next year or any other year, we make up our mind, while the war lasts, not to make neutrality or the conditions or personnel of the Defence Forces issues in a general election, we can have that general election in a peaceful way.

I do not understand why it is assumed, in connection with this election, that there must be consultation by the Government with other political Parties before the dissolution takes place. The old Chartist movement in Britain had as one of its aims an annual Parliament. The Taoiseach nearly achieved the ambition of the Chartist movement in this country during the past ten years, when he had the 1933 election immediately after the 1932 election and, in 1938, had another election after coming back from the country in 1937.

Surely the Deputy is not disclaiming all credit for that?

We had the Taoiseach going to the country in 1933, 1937 and 1938 and nobody was consulted then as to whether there should be a general election or not. The Taoiseach made up his mind that he had a good hand of cards, that he would get it over on the boys, and went to the country. I do not understand the reluctance of the Taoiseach now to look at his cards and, as usual, play his own hand in his own way.

He has no trumps.

Maybe there are not many trumps in the hand he is holding.

He cannot find the joker.

Perhaps that is the explanation of the atmosphere which has been created around this question of a general election. Let the country understand that every time the Taoiseach wanted to go to the country before, there was no force in the country which could prevent him. Now, apparently, it is assumed there must be some consultation with somebody undefined as to whether there will or will not be an election. It seems to me that this is not a matter for a motion at all. The whole responsibility as to whether there will or will not be an election rests with the Taoiseach and with the members of the Government. It is their responsibility to decide whether there will be an election or not. There is no use in their trying to "pass the buck" to other political Parties. The responsibility is on the Government. This is not a matter for a motion; it is not even a matter for consultation in this House or for consultation with other political Parties. The sole responsibility in this matter rests with the Government as to whether or not there will be a general election, and my suggestion, on behalf of this Party, is that the Government should accept the responsibility now, as they have accepted it on other occasions, of deciding whether or not there is going to be a general election.

I think I indicated last June, when the local elections were being held, what our attitude was. Whatever we may do finally, I think there will be no doubt as to our view when I have finished. It would be a national disaster if, for one moment, we forgot that this nation at the present time, and while this war lasts, will be in danger—that is a fundamental truth—and the one danger in the case of a general election would be if the people, on account of the apparent freedom which we would be exercising during that time, should lose sight of the fact that we are surrounded by a world at war. The Dáil, constitutionally, as the leader of the Labour Party has said, is not consulted in this particular matter. The Taoiseach, for the time being, has the constitutional right of advising the President to dissolve the Dáil within a certain period of time, provided he has the support of a majority in the House. That is the right deliberately put into the Constitution to enable Governments to be formed effectively. It is, therefore, not ordinarily a matter for discussion in the House. The reason that it has come up for discussion is because of the natural anxiety that every Deputy and every person in the country feel about an election at a time like this.

Besides the constitutional right that is given to the head of the Government during the ordinary period of time, there is in the Constitution a definite period set out beyond which even Parliament itself is not at liberty to extend its life—that is, so long as the Constitution is operative. It is laid down in the Constitution that the length of time that may be assigned by law for the life of the Dáil shall not be more than seven years. Parliament is entitled, by ordinary legislation, to fix the period. Parliament has done that and has fixed the period at five years. In ordinary times the working out of that generally means that the people are consulted at a much shorter period than five years. Various situations arise in which the Government of the day think that it is desirable that they should be strengthened in the pursuit of a certain policy and that the best way is to appeal to the people. At other times difficulties arise in Parliament and the majority Party, the Government Party, may think it desirable to appeal to the people. In that way it has worked out on the average here over a period of years that the time within which the people are consulted is very much less than five years.

I do not know whether that is wise or not. If I were asked to bring in a Bill to settle, under the Constitution, the length of life of Parliament, I would be inclined to take six years instead of five years. The five years happened to be there before the new Constitution was brought in. The new Constitution was brought in a few years ago and we did not deem it desirable to change the period. I want to say, frankly, that if I were responsible for bringing in legislation to determine the life of Parliament by law, I would choose six years rather than five years, in the view that that would operate generally in giving Parliament an effective life of five years. The legal position is that, unless this Parliament were deliberately to bring in a Bill to prolong its life, by June of this year Parliament would automatically dissolve.

What we would have to consider, if this motion were accepted, would be the bringing in of special legislation to postpone the dissolution of Parliament, either, if we wanted to keep within the Constitution, to the full period of seven years, or else postpone it, as is suggested in this motion, to the end of the emergency. I think everybody will agree, no matter what views he may have about this matter at the moment, that it would be absolutely foolish to bring in any half measure in regard to the elections during the emergency. I think it must be clear to everybody, if there be reasons for not having an election at the present time, that all these reasons would be strengthened as time goes on, and the difficulties there are in the way of holding an election would become greater.

One point made by Deputy Dillon falls immediately to the ground, the point he made when he said that if a Government such as he contemplated was elected, and got into difficulties, they could again go to the electorate. Every difficulty there is in the way of an election at the present time would lie against the holding of an election such as Deputy Dillon has suggested— so it appears to me, at any rate. The position, therefore, is that we, by our own act in this House, would have to prolong the life of this Parliament. I believe that constitutionally we could do so and, therefore, what we could do constitutionally should not be regarded in the way Deputy O'Higgins suggested—depriving the people of a legal right—provided it was definitely clear that we could, by law, pass an Act within the prescribed period. But I am certain that we would have to do more than that, that we would not merely have to go outside the law as it is, but that we would have to go outside the express terms of the Constitution if the postponement was to be of any value. Now, that is the fundamental Article of the whole Constitution.

If Parliament can go on prolonging its life, then it is quite clear that the rights of the people which are set out in the Constitution will be abrogated. Consequently, though I do not agree with Deputy O'Higgins exactly in the way he put it, I say that the conclusion is the same, and that if we were to prolong our life to the point that the prolongation would be of any real value, we would have to go outside not merely the law, but the Constitution. Then, certainly, we would be up against a very serious difficulty, and would set up a very dangerous precedent.

We know from discussions on Constitutional points, outside this particular difficulty, that it is not desirable to allow people to continue in power by their own choice. People who are in authority like to continue in authority. If they believe they have a programme to put through, naturally, they are anxious, if they believe in their programme, to put it through. There would be a thousand and one reasons why a body in power would like to continue in power. If we set this precedent at the present time, it might very well be acted upon in conditions very different from the conditions we have here to-day.

We brought in the Constitution. The people and the Parliament passed it. It is a democratic Constitution and, for good or ill, as long as that remains, we are bound to act in the spirit of it. We are bound to act to the best of our power, and to act on the basis that the people are the ultimate source of authority under God in this country. As I said, to do anything which would change that would be to upset the very foundations of the whole structure. I am not going to make light of the present situation. It is the one danger I fear might be lost sight of in connection with the election. I do not want to make light of that danger at all. It is not a special danger that I know of or that the Defence Conference is aware of, but it is a danger that everybody with his eyes open knows to exist. Nevertheless, on the choice of evils we have got to face, I have no hesitation in saying—unless I saw directly and immediately a desperate calamity about to overtake this community which could only be saved by the process of postponing the election —that only in such circumstances would I, for one, suggest to the House that we should postpone the election. Great as the danger appears to me to be, I could not come along and say to the House at the present time that it is of such a character that we would be justified in prolonging the life of Parliament in order to meet it. I said on a former occasion that the Government could not contemplate using its majority to prolong the life of the Parliament, and that the only situation in which the matter could at all be considered would be if there was agreement amongst all Parties that a dissolution should be postponed. Even if there were agreement amongst all Parties, the principle that I have already mentioned would apply.

Remember it is not merely the continuation of this Government that is in question. The question is: what is to be the representation of the people in this whole Parliament? The right of the individuals here to represent the people is not questioned. They know that even if there was agreement amongst them they would have no right to continue here except the paramount right to save the State from impending disaster. That would be the only basis that would seem to me to justify Parliament in prolonging its life even with agreement amongst the Parties.

The Leader of the Labour Party made a speech. I am not going to comment upon it. I say that we have never shirked our responsibility. Since the question of the election arose, I have never at any time tried to throw responsibility for this election on any shoulders. The responsibility for this election is due to the fact that it happens that at this particular time the period is running out. That is what is causing an election, not our will. I regret very much that the period should be running out at this particular time and, if the House were agreed on the matter, I would, for the sake of the coming Parliament, change the period from five years to six. I would not extend it beyond that. But that is not sufficient. It would be a question if we would not have another election—depending on the length the emergency lasts. I would like to think that the Parliament the people are going to elect would be sufficiently long in office not to have another election during the emergency. That must be settled by the people themselves. If there were any question of extending the life of the new Parliament, it should be done now before there is an appeal to the people. It could be done now if it were thought desirable. It could not be done when the election was over. However, that is a matter that we can discuss later if there is anybody interested. I want to point out that there has been no hesitation and no suggestion of any kind on the part of the Government that we want to prolong the life of Parliament. There was recognition on our part of serious danger. We believe that, if that danger was sufficiently imminent, and members opposite came along and said to the Government: "We think there ought not to be an election at the present time," it would be a very different matter for members of the opposing Parties to say that than members of the majority Party. There has been no other suggestion, so far as we are concerned, at any time.

I think it would be difficult to improve on the speeches made on the two sides, for and against the motion, by Deputy Dillon and Deputy O'Higgins. They expressed the two sides almost completely. In fact, there was scarcely a single argument I could think of on one side or the other that was not put before the House by these two Deputies. Deputy O'Higgins pointed out the fundamental character of the decision that would be taken if we decided to postpone this election. On the other hand, Deputy Dillon pointed out the dangers that lay in the present situation, and also the difficulties of holding this election. We have to choose between the evils pointed out by the two sides. As far as I am concerned, I have no difficulty whatever in choosing between them. I say that, at the present time, it is desirable that we should have in this country the strongest Government that we can get. That Government will be required for the particularly dangerous period until the war ends, and probably for the still more dangerous period when the war ends. Whether the Government that is elected for a five- or six-year period will be able to outlive, so to speak, the emergency no one can tell. I am not one of those who foresee a swift ending to this emergency. I think it is going to last for a considerable period.

As I said already, I think that, during the whole of that period, the difficulties and dangers in this country are going to increase, not diminish. If you do not have an election now, I feel perfectly certain you will be forced into an election before the emergency is over and that you will be forced into an election at a time when the dangers are not less real than they are at the present time. I think that to strive to postpone the election is not to face the facts of the situation at all. I know that the people of the country do not care for elections. None of us want elections. That is natural enough. Somebody said that, even in ordinary times, those who do not realise the influence upon their lives of the Parliament that they elect and of the Government they elect, do not bother about elections at all, but are worried that there should be such things.

We here in this House, and the people as a whole, went to considerable trouble in designing a Constitution which was to give the people the right to see that the Parliament which affected their lives would be of their own choosing. If you were to depart from that principle you would very soon find out that there was quite a large number of people who were not going to stand for that. I feel—actually it is true what was suggested during the debate—that if the attitude of this House was felt to be different from what it is you would have quite a different temper in the country. I believe at the moment, notwithstanding the dangers that there are, and the people's opinions of the dangers that exist at the present time, that if there was any disposition here on the part of the members of this House to continue here in Parliament and to deny to the people the right to decide who their representatives should be, their temper would change overnight, and that very large sections of the people who at the moment do not see the reasons, who do not think out and see the dangers that would result from not holding this election, would, once their eyes were opened to these dangers, be the very people who would complain that the Parliament here was denying them their fundamental rights and would insist on getting their rights. My belief is, and I am fully alive to the responsibility there is in coming to a decision, that of all the dangers and evils that are around us, the lesser of them anyhow is having this election.

Now, there have been suggestions about a coalition, a national, Government. It is a subject I do not care to talk about except to say that I do not believe it would be a success. That is my honest belief. I do not believe that a coalition Government in this country at the present time would be a success. My own belief is that it is difficult enough to get, even amongst the members of a Party who come in on a certain programme as a result of an election, especially when you come down to details, agreement amongst them so as to be able to pursue a vigorous policy, and not to have the whole thing complicated by trying to compose differences between Party views and getting nothing but compromises and compromises all the way through. That is my own honest belief. I have had a few experiences in this country of sitting down with people who differed fundamentally from me politically.

I had the experience at the time of conscription of sitting down with two or three groups, and, later, when we tried to have some sort of an economic conference here. I found that the fundamental differences were of such a character that you could not get vigorous action coming out of any councils of that kind. That is my belief, and, consequently, I would deplore myself a situation being arrived at in which the country was forced and in which Parliament was forced to have a Government of that kind. Taking democracy as we know it, I think that fundamentally it only works well on the basis of having a major group that decides, before an election, on a definite policy, so that when the members of that group come into office all their energies will be turned towards the execution and carrying out of that policy. Goodness knows, the task is sufficiently difficult even when you have got the common opinions that you have in a Party elected in that particular way. My own belief is that for executive action you want people who, in the main, have got the fundamental principles of a common outlook, and that if there is to be any cooperation between Parties or between groups, it is here in the open Parliament that that is best carried out. I believe that in private there is the danger of misunderstandings, that people will not speak out their full minds, and that if there are people of different groups or parties sitting together in private there will be reservations and misunderstandings. There will be questions of want of frankness. That is the natural tendency. If you have discussions in the open, well at any rate the whole of it is there, and there can be no question of anyone suggesting that somebody else has said such and such a thing and held such and such an opinion in private. I believe that this Parliamentary system and this democratic system will work best if you have it on the basis of a Party that goes as a whole to the electorate with a certain programme, and gets returned in order to put it through.

Proportional representation does produce a certain difficulty because it enables smaller groups to be formed. When we were considering it here in the House I am sure that all of us who have been elected and re-elected, or who have been up for election a number of times, recognised from the pros and cons in regard to proportional representation that one of the failings in connection with it was that it would lead to instability and to the formation of special groups who would bargain with one another in order to get into office. I think that, if that situation should unfortunately develop in this country, the people themselves would demand that the matter would be fixed by abolishing, if necessary, the Article in the Constitution dealing with proportional representation.

I would remind the Taoiseach that the debate was to end at a quarter to seven and that Deputy Cole may like a quarter of an hour to reply.

All that I need say is this——

Five minutes will do me.

Deputy Cole says that five minutes will be sufficient for him.

All I need say is that, taking Deputy O'Higgins' conclusions, I agree with him that, unfortunate as it is that an election should come at this particular time, I think it a lesser evil than to postpone it. Those who want to postpone it will not look far enough ahead and will not see the things that are going to arise immediately that you take a decision of this sort. Having come to that conclusion, you either wait for the period to elapse for the Dáil to be automatically dissolved or you cause it to be dissolved. My own view is this, that were it not for the situation that is here, with regard to light and so on, that now that an election is inevitable, the best thing would be to get it over as quickly as possible. Due to a variety of difficulties, I think that an early election is not likely. There is the difficulty in regard to light and a number of other difficulties that have got to be met. Therefore, I do not think an early election is likely. Next June is the time that we have legally to dissolve Parliament. I should have to advise the President of a dissolution before that period. It will be as near to that period as we can reasonably manage. There is no question of rushing an election. There will be nothing like trying to rush an election or of stealing a march on anybody. I regret, therefore, that the campaign is likely to be over an extended period. I think it would be better for the country if we could get it over fairly soon. Unfortunately, the difficulties in the way will, I think, prevent that.

Again, I should like to stress the fact that the nation is in a position of danger all the time. One of the dangers—I think Deputy O'Higgins mentioned it—is the possibility that we would have a government for a period without any parliament. That can be remedied. We could bring in a Bill to remedy that. We can examine whether it would be within the terms of the Constitution; whether there would be anything against the spirit of the Constitution in doing that. We could bring in a Bill, for instance, to continue the Dáil in session until the new Dáil is summoned. In fact, that position arose in the old days. That was the position in 1919 or before that; the Dáil continued to function until the new Dáil met. We could bring in a Bill to arrange for that. There is a lot to be said for the present position, that the Dáil would go out, so that the people up for election would not be members. Now, I think we can avoid their being even nominally members. We can go into that carefully, so that any disadvantage there may be will be eliminated as far as possible. I think that is one of the difficulties we could eliminate. On the whole, then, as far as we are concerned, we too discussed this matter in our Party. We discussed it equally freely, and with us—as I am sure with the opposite Party—there were different views expressed, just as they were expressed here, but, when the matter was threshed out, we came unanimously to the conclusion that the best thing in the national interest, taking everything into account, is that the election should be held as it is due to be held by law.

Deputies Cole and MacEoin rose.

I merely want to say a few words.

Deputy MacEoin wants to intervene briefly. He can only do so with the permission of Deputy Cole, because the remaining time is at the disposal of that Deputy.

Very well.

The Taoiseach has solved 90 per cent. of the difficulty that I had in viewing with pleasure the holding of an election by saying that the continuation of Parliament will be possible. Article 28 of the Constitution lays down that if anything should happen—I am not going into detail— the Dáil should be immediately called. That, of course, would not be possible if the Dáil had been dissolved. If it were impossible to hold an election, therefore, the Government would be left without the support which, in my opinion, it is necessary for any Government to have in order to pull a country through a crisis. In that sense, I realise that the dangers which I foresaw can be overcome. As I said, I intend to be brief, but I want to subscribe to the view that, during the course of the election, people should not forget that dangers exist. I appeal to the various Parties not to lose sight of those dangers. Finally, I wish to stress the point that, no matter how violently we may disagree with the views held by a candidate, we must not stop him from putting those views to the electorate. Candidates will get their answer from the people themselves, and they should not be prevented from giving expression to their views.

I am sorry that I did not get more support, but I think the discussion has done no harm. I do not wish to say any more.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
The Dáil adjourned at 6.35 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 3rd March, 1943.