That the Dáil do now adjourn sine die.
Vol. 93 No. 15
That the Dáil do now adjourn sine die.
On the motion for the adjournment of the Dáil sine die, I desire to place on record the considered and emphatic protest of this Party at the action of the Taoiseach and the Government in plunging this country into an unnecessary general election at the most dangerous and critical weeks the people of this country were ever asked to live through. The decision was unnecessary. The decision was taken in pique and petulance. The decision was directed by a mind that can never have understood the first elementary principles of democracy or the underlying theories on which Parliaments are founded and under which they can function. Our Constitution, about which we heard so much some years ago, contains clauses to deal with a situation in which a Government is in a minority and arrangements are laid down to give an opportunity to the majority of Parliament to form a Government and avert the chaos of a general election. After astute manæuvring, politically corrupt practices and unnational activity, guided by political exigencies, rather than consideration for the safety and security of the country, opportunists decided to take advantage of the failing health of a great figure in order to cheat Parliament of the right of fulfilling its destiny.
There must be no criticism, direct or indirect, of any action of the President.
My remarks are by way of sympathy with the President. I am expressing the views of decent men inside and outside Parliament. We sympathise with him in his affliction and in the predicament in which he was unfairly placed last night—a man in his state of health roused out of bed in order that a political junta should cheat Parliament of its rights. There is—and well the Taoiseach knows it—enough material inside this House at the present moment, with or without the cooperation of any elements in the Government Party, to give to this nation a Government that would carry on its business more efficiently than did the last Government for the remaining period of this emergency. There are figures in this Parliament big enough to subordinate political opportunism to the welfare of the country, figures that are big enough to lay aside their political differences and to work together for the common good for the remainder of this emergency. Parliament was cheated of its opportunity to effect its functions and to fulfil the desire of the overwhelming majority of the people of this country, to carry on without turmoil and without bitterness and without controversy for the remainder of this emergency. I do not believe that if such an opportunity had been given to Parliament that the best elements in the Fianna Fáil Party would have reneged their Parliament and their country.
I believe there would have been a response, even from inside the Fianna Fáil Party, to the call of a nation in distress to carry on its work to look after its security, to provide its people with food, to avert taking men from the field and factory. That is what the nation wants, not political domination or an effort by any political Party, Government or otherwise, to cash in on a situation politically. The decision was a deplorable one. It was unnecessary. It arose out of a request by every individual of this Parliament who is not wilting under the Government Whip, a united appeal from all, to post pone consideration of a Bill which was interwoven with financial ventures of a gigantic kind, to postpone consideration until the Parliament and the people were satisfied that there was not immense corruption and graft associated with those ventures. That was the request of the majority of this Parliament.
It was a request expressed on behalf of the vast majority of the people of this country. It was a request that should have been agreed to without a debate, without a division, and in the Division Lobby a majority of Deputies, fulfilling their functions as representatives of the people, endorsed that view and that request, and the petulant answer of Government is that work can be thrown aside, that security does not matter, that the imminence of the greatest danger the world ever knew does not matter, that all that matters is that piqued politicians must have a revenge on people and on Parliament and it does not matter if that election coincides with the most colossal military movements that were ever dreamt of.
If there is war in the air over our homes and around our shores, security, safety and neutrality—nothing matters —but that a piqued individual must avenge himself on Deputies who exercised their function as Deputies.
So we find ourselves plunged, without notice, without any consideration for the people, into a general election to anticipate the findings of a tribunal. The Government over the last week wanted a measure forced through to anticipate such findings. I put it to decent people, to those opposite who still have a sense of national responsibility, was not the decision evidence of unheard of recklessness and irresponsibility to an untold degree? When we have that kind of recklessness, that kind of petulance, that kind of national irresponsibility associated with Party government, the public will judge whether emergency times, times of danger, times of insecurity, are the times in which narrow prejudice and bigoted Party government are best suited to the requirements of the people.
We had an election last year arising out of legal necessity, arising out of constitutional requirements. We had that election decided on, in the fullness of its wisdom by Parliament, and we had that decision taken at a time when the war was thousands of miles from our shores. But, even on that occasion, when the war was not near us and the election was legally demanded, we had the Taoiseach telling us that it was an appalling thing to have to face it and the only reason why he faced it was because if there was an arrangement between all Parties to avoid and postpone that election, public opinion must force an election when the danger was nearer and the circumstances more serious. An election, according to him, even at that time, with all arrangements made in advance, with the war thousands of miles from our shores, was a danger so grave as to be nearly unthinkable and only unthinkable because it was unavoidable.
Now, with the war thousands of miles nearer to us, with the biggest military venture the world ever dreamt of hourly imminent, without consultation with Parliamentary leaders, without consideration by Parliament itself, without even discussion with members of the Defence Conference to see if possible any arrangement could be made, and, if possible, precautions taken, to ensure that the Defence Forces would be in no way upset, that the work of the nation would be interfered with to the very minimum, in camera, in secret, foully, unfairly and undemocratically, this decision is taken and hurled at Parliament and people. A decision has been taken. It is not even within our right to oppose that decision; we deplore that decision on behalf of the country, and on behalf of the people only because the activities of the last few days and the last 12 hours will convince the public that narrow, bigoted, Party government is not suitable to the people or to the nation in times of emergency but politically — politically only — the decision is welcome.
Arrangements which were made prior to the last election should be made forthwith, arrangements with regard to the security of the State, the safety of its people and non-interference with the disciplined regime of our uniformed services. My last word is that in spite of the appallingly unfair decision taken, in spite of the appallingly reckless decision taken, there is no pique on this side. Whatever contribution we can make for the safety and security of the State and to support the services of the State, even in existing circumstances, we are prepared to make it.
This House meets to-day in circumstances which are probably without parallel in any Parliament where democratic government still obtains. In the past two weeks this House has discussed the question of the postponement of the Second Reading of the Transport Bill until such time as the House had an opportunity of examining the report of the tribunal which was set up because there were allegations made in this House, and outside, that a collection of dishonourable shares had managed by manipulating the Stock Exchange to make substantial profits at the people's expense. In the past fortnight, the House has endeavoured to convince the Minister and the Taoiseach that they ought not to proceed with the Second Reading of this Bill until the judges who had been appointed to inquire into these transactions had completed their report and the House had an opportunity of considering that report.
Because last week the members of the House who were not compelled to respond to the Government Whip decided they would prefer to see the report before proceeding with the Second Reading of the Bill, the Government, taking violent exception to the free decision of the majority of members of this House, decided to dissolve the Dáil. I do not think that any Taoiseach in the world could have been guilty in the circumstances such as existed last night of the haste, arrogance and bad temper which the Taoiseach displayed from the time the House adjourned until the Government Information Bureau announced the dissolution of the Dáil to-day. Here we had a situation in which the Taoiseach had forfeited the confidence of the House.
The Taoiseach was, therefore, in the position of being in a minority and the obvious and honourable course for him was to resign his position as Taoiseach, as he undertook to do when he came to this House last year and intimated that if he could not get a majority for measures this Government would resign and the people would have to get another Government to carry on. That was the Taoiseach last year when he came in here in lamb-like clothing. He was no lamb last night. He was like an uncaged political bear last night anxious to make sure that the House would suffer the peculiar form of wrath which the Taoiseach is capable of venting on people who do anything to disturb his equanimity in political matters. We find the Taoiseach engaged in a midnight ride to the Park, arriving there about midnight, as a political marauder, beseeching the President to dissolve the Dáil, not because the Dáil wanted to be dissolved or the people wanted a new election, but because the Taoiseach was in a temper, a temper no thermometer could measure. When the Taoiseach is in that peculiar temper, every opponent must be squashed.
High treason was committed in the Park last night. We find the Taoiseach arriving in the darkness of the night in the house of an aged man whom everyone knows to be in anything but a perfect state of health. One can imagine the scene — the Taoiseach full of venom against a democratic Parliament which had unseated his Government. One is left to imagine the tone in which the demand for a dissolution was presented to the aged man in the Park last night. Like Deputy O'Higgins I want to express sympathy with the President in the advantage which was taken of him last night and of the nocturnal intrusion of an annoyed and outraged Taoiseach.
I hope this election at all events will ensure the immunity of the aged President from similar raids by the Taoiseach in future. I do not of course purport to be able to plumb the Taoiseach's mind to any great depth. The Taoiseach has a way of his own in all these matters. What I want to ask is what set of circumstances compelled the Taoiseach to plunge the country into a general election when the only issue involved is a wait of two months.
We said: "Avoid an election by waiting for two months until we see the report of the tribunal which is investigating the allegations of graft and corruption on the Stock Exchange. At the latest we can have the report in two months." I understand that there was every prospect of a report by the end of this month; because the Taoiseach will not wait until the end of the month to get the report of the judges investigating the Stock Exchange scandals we must have a general election. Why? Is it because the Government is afraid of the report? There can be no other significance attached to the Taoiseach's attitude last night than that the Government want to get firmly entrenched before the report of that tribunal is issued. The obvious explanation of the Taoiseach's attitude is that the Government wants to reestablish itself firmly in office before the scandals are exposed by that tribunal. A short time ago demands were presented to this nation by the American Government and by the British Government. We had an unexampled demonstration of national unity when all Parties in this House declared that they stood unitedly in resistance to the demands which were then made by these foreign Powers, demands which, in international law, these Powers had no right to make upon us, demands which were based only on the frenzy of military necessity. On that occasion we had the Taoiseach making speeches in which he indicated that that example of unity was something which thrilled his heart; it thrilled the whole nation. That example of unity did something more. It demonstrated to those who were seeking to squeeze us that a united nation stood four-square in opposition to any attempt to be beaten down by brute force. The unity to which the Taoiseach paid tribute two months ago is now being sundered, not by the British Government or by the American Government, but is being sundered by no less a person than the Taoiseach, who was lyrical about that unity, and the essentiality of that unity two months ago.
We are, probably, on the eve of the biggest military convulsion the world has ever seen, when gigantic armies will be locked in a life and death struggle. Throughout the world there is great care, caution and prudence in face of the events before it. Here at home, there is something different Just the eve of that gigantic military conculsion is the time selected by the Taoiseach for a general election, not because it enhances our security, not because it promotes unity, no, but because it gratifies the Taoiseach's temper for the time being. We had appeals to the people to grow more food; we had appeals to the people to win more fuel; we had appeals to the people to stay on the land and to work it to the fullest extent in this time of crisis. The Taoiseach thinks that is all right so long as he does not want an election, but when the Taoiseach decides there is to be an election, then unity must go, food production must go, fuel production must go, stability must go, and everything must be subordinated to gratify the Taoiseach's desire. Well the Taoiseach has willed an election.
The old Chartist movement had, as one of its aims, that it stood for an annual election. It is a long time since the Chartist movement was in existence. It never achieved its ambition. It was left to the Taoiseach in Éire to realise it, and to have an annual election every time he loses his temper and cannot have his way. If the Government want an election, they can have it, and they are quite welcome to it. I will be interested to hear the Taoiseach's explanation as to why the country should be plunged into an election, because he will not wait for a month to get the report of Stock Exchange manipulations. That is the issue involved in this election. If I know the people, I think it will be very difficult for the Government to explain to them why it was necessary to have an election instead of waiting for a month for the report of the tribunal. That was the issue involved in the amendment on which the Government was defeated last night. If the people want clean Parliamentary government, if they do not want the manipulation which was a scandalous feature of the transport merger, then I think they will know what to do when it comes to casting their votes in this election. Of course, the Government may go into the election full of enthusiasm. Every shark on the Stock Exchange, and every manipulator on the Stock Exchange will back the Government generously in this election because, have no doubt about it, unless this Government gets back, the sharks will not get four times more for shares than they paid for them. Every financial shark in this country who manipulates the Stock Exchange to his own advantage will plump No. 1 for the so-called Republican Government, because in the Fianna Fáil Government coming back to office it means four times more for shares than what they were bought for last year. The ordinary people will know that, and will remember it at the election.
However, the Government wants an election and, probably, the best thing is to let them have it. But when the people reflect on the situation, they will have nothing to thank this Government for precipitating the country into a general election, at a time when every dictate of national unity and security indicated that there should be an endeavour to avoid an election, to galvanise the people into greater unity, and to concentrate their efforts on the production of food and fuel. That will not happen for the next month. It cannot happen because the Taoiseach is in a bad temper.
Our Party leaves this House with the same impression it had when it came into it, and that is that as far as this House is concerned, democracy is dead. We believe that is due to the Party system that with many other things we have taken over from England. It is that Party system which is responsible for democracy being dead in this country. We look forward to the day—we put it forward at the last election, and we do so again—when the Party system will be a thing of the past, when representatives will be elected by the people, real, honest representatives, who will be given power to elect their Government to carry on irrespective of Party. Then, when a Government or a Minister puts forward a motion in this House, if the majority support it, it becomes the law of the land, but if the majority turns it down, they are as much entitled to turn down a Minister or a Government as a Deputy, because all are the elected representatives of constituencies. We believe the Party system is responsible for what has happened. As a Party we will do our best to see that our policy will be carried out. People laugh but I throw out this hint, he who laughs last laughs best.
The one great reason why this Party voted against this Transport Bill was because the Government would not agree to have it referred back. We do not mind who sponsored the motion. Since we came to this House, we never cared who sponsored motions. We judged motions on their face value, not on the names of the people behind them. We supported them if we thought they suited our people, and we opposed them if we thought otherwise. We supported the motion to refer this Bill back because we did not see any reason why there should be such a rush. If there was one thing that convinced us there was something hidden, that there was something in doubt, something to be troubled about, it was the fact that an individual could go to a bank and, without security, get thousands of pounds to invest on the Stock Exchange. If a man on the land went into the bank and wanted to get a loan he would not get it if he had not some security. That is why we stood definitely against this Bill until such time as the tribunal would have come to its decision. We hear a lot about the interest of this country and in the next 20 days we will hear a lot more about it, but I greatly doubt that it is only lip-sympathy and lip-interest. I just wondered as we stood to-day by the graves of the 1916 Leaders is it for this type of democracy they stood? Is it for this type of Ireland they fought, is it for this type of democracy they fought and died? I believe it was not. I believe they stood and fought for a really true and clean democracy of government by the people, for the people. That is what they stood for and died for.
As far as we are concerned we have every sympathy for the electors and the responsibility for the election lies with those who act as dictators. Our sympathy goes out to the electorate in this election, but notwithstanding that I say here, and the time will come when I will prove it, that it gives us an opportunity of strengthening our Party. We did not want that opportunity. We were satisfied to remain together and work as best we could until this emergency is over. Notwithstanding that, this opportunity has been given us and definitely we will take it. We heard a terrible lot about working for food and fuel, but there is very little thought of food and fuel to-day. You are taking the men from the bogs, you are taking the men from the fields, and you are bringing them back to the crossroads. The hustings will go up again and the promises will be made again, but I have no doubt the people of this country, common, hard-working people, and the widows whose earnings were taken away by these sharks, will realise what is happening. I believe that the Government is responsible for this election and I make that charge against them. Again I say that we welcome that decision. Our sympathy goes out to the electorate. We will work as we worked before, and we will work to break what is responsible for this class of clap-trap in the House—that is the Party system. We will work against that we will fight against it. I know that men voted last night against their conscience because the Party Whip was brought down upon them. I have no doubt that that really happened in this House. As far as we are concerned the man that stood up and gave his views in direct opposition to the view of the majority in our Party was clapped on the back by me. That is what you want. You do not want yes-men. You want honest representatives who will give honest honourable views in this House and until such time as we have that we will not have democracy.
The Taoiseach rose.
Is this to conclude the debate?
The Taoiseach is called upon to conclude the debate if no other Deputy wishes to intervene.
It became clear to me when the Leader of the Labour Party made his speech that he had not read Mr. MacManus's Life of de Valera. The Deputy should read Mr. MacManus's Life of de Valera. He will find in it a description of a moving scene of Mr. de Valera founding the Irish Press. A neophyte comes looking for a job and Mr. de Valera says: “Can you write leading articles?” The neophyte says: “No, I cannot write leading articles, but I will try although I am not politically minded.”“Well,” says Mr. de Valera, “neither am I politically minded.” That striking scene is in the book but really our experience of the last 24 hours will cause poor Mr. MacManus to blush. Distinguished littérateur and experienced journalist though he is, certainly the Taoiseach managed to get up his sleeve on this occasion. Of course, the Taoiseach thought that he was snatching an advantage but I do not think he was. To me the possibility of rooting the Fianna Fáil Government out of office is so attractive that I would agree to a general election every week until we got them out. I know it will cost the country a great deal and I know it will cause great inconvenience. I know it imperils the country, but measuring that inconvenience and that peril against the inconveniences of having a Fianna Fáil Government and the peril of its continued existence, I think a general election rather an advantage. Let us not lament the general election. We should not lament it in view of the fact that it could have the effect of getting Fianna Fáil out of office and providing an alternative Government.
However, I think the Taoiseach has been guilty of a very serious offence against the spirit of democracy. Whether he has offended against the letter of the Constitution or not I am not in a position to say. His Government was defeated last night and it could have made no conceivable difference if, instead of storming up to the Phoenix Park in the middle of the night and announcing the general election at 1 o'clock in the morning, he had waited until this morning and afforded the Dáil, which after all is superior to any Executive, an opportunity of making up its mind whether it chose to elect a new Executive out of the Dáil or would present the Taoiseach with the right to recommend a dissolution and go to the country. Surely this is bad example. It is the first time that the new power under this beloved Constitution of his own making has been called into effect, wherein a defeated Taoiseach can come along and recommend a general election and force on Dáil Eireann not what the elected representatives of the people think best but what the defeated Taoiseach wants to secure. Surely that is undesirable. In any circumstances for the Taoiseach to go and root the President, who is 84 years of age, out of his bed in order to ask for a general election would be disagreeable, but it is more so bearing in mind the circumstances in which this particular thing was done.
The motion moved by Deputy O'Higgins did not go far. I would have preferred to reject the Bill on its merits, but the Deputy merely put down a motion that the Bill should be postponed until the commission which the Taoiseach himself is responsible for setting up had made its report to the Dáil. The Taoiseach withstands that. Bear in mind the position is that there is suspicion of corruption and it was in order to allay that suspicion or to bring the culprits to justice that the commission was set up. The Taoiseach was defeated merely on the question of whether he would postpone the Bill, and he dashes out in the middle of the night and calls for a general election. Surely it would be very much better to say: "If you are uneasy about the issue of this commission, if you want my Government to stand aside until the commission has reported choose another Government out of the Dáil and carry on." I am perfectly certain that it is not true that the Taoiseach had any corrupt association with the activities on the Dublin Stock Exchange and it would be deplorable if we were launched into an election campaign on the issue of whether the Taoiseach had been gambling in Stock Exchange shares or not. Nobody suggests that and it is manifestly not true, but why should the Taoiseach have dashed out in the middle of the night to get his dissolution on an issue of this kind? I think he will find that difficult to answer. I think Mr. MacManus's Life of de Valera is a kind of Mein Kampf of Fianna Fáil. Every little boy and girl who is the son or daughter of a Fianna Fáil club member will have an admonitory finger pointed at him and will be asked: “Have you read the Life of de Valera.” If he has not he will not be a good member of Fianna Fáil.
And the Parliamentary Secretaries have to read it twice.
They have already begun. Let us not complain of that, but let us remember the pabulum upon which they are fed, and let us try to sympathise with them in their very natural illusions. The Fianna Fáil doctrine is that the Taoiseach hates politics, that he does not understand them, that he recoils from engaging in them and longs to govern this country from the Olympian calm of the Institute of Higher Studies, his dearest pride and joy, with an Olympian patience that understands everything and, under standing everything, forgives every thing. Well it is a "quare" picture of the gentleman in a motor-car, blazing through the night up to the Viceregal Lodge to get poor President Hyde out of his bed to sign the dissolution: the Olympian calm, the Olympian patience, the Institute of Higher Studies and the President in his night-shirt, tottering down the stairs to sign the dissolution.
The Chair deprecates any reference to the President. The Deputy's reference is objectionable.
There you are: the old war-horse is pawing the ground and sniffing the air. He thinks he is going to secure a political advantage in a snap general election. He is not the first politician who thought he could do that, as a study of the political history of France, Great Britain and of every other democratic country will show. He will get up in a moment and make a speech addressing the Irish people, deploring the low standard of all the criticism that has been levelled against him, grieving over the hurtful misrepresentation that has gone on in this House in the last couple of days, assuring the country that he is concerned with nothing but to get this State governed and adequately to protect the people against the immense perils that lie ahead. That being the desideratum, nobody in Ireland can fill the bill except de Valera, and, to do him no injustice, he believes that. He thinks that there is nobody in this country fit to run the country except de Valera, and, believing that in the bottom of his heart, is there not a good deal in what he is going to do? He wants to carry that conviction to the Irish people. Well, I doubt if he will succeed. I am sure he is wrong, but, with Olympian calm, with Olympian patience and in the atmosphere of the Institute of Higher Studies, he is going through.
I hope he will remember all these attributes that he has to live up to when he is addressing the populace in O'Connell Street and in the Mall during the next three weeks. I hope that when he comes back to this House after the general election, as he undoubtedly will himself, he will come back as a chastened man. Deputy Norton described him last night as "an angry bear." I was watching him last night when he heard the result of the division. If he was a bear his appearance became somewhat Polar. As Deputy Peadar Doyle walked down the stairs, he grew pale, I do not know whether from alarm or indignation. Well, I trust that he will come back from this campaign vigorous and in good health but chastened, and that he will resume his studies of how to conduct a chastened Parliamentary Opposition in this country. His last apprenticeship as a Leader in Opposition was not a great advertisement for his capacity to learn. I do not despair that, when he retires to the Opposition Benches for another ten years, we will then be able to lay the laurels of a long and honourable political career on his brow, and, possibly, conduct him to Árus an Uachtarán in the assurance that no successor of his will ever take him out of his bed at two o'clock in the morning in order to create a dissolution.
I want to raise a question concerning the facilities generally afforded to candidates for fighting a general election. I hope the Minister for Supplies will be in a position to indicate what will be done on this occasion to provide duly nominated candidates with a reasonable supply of petrol to carry on their campaign. On the last occasion, and on every occasion on which a general election has taken place, the members of the Government and the Parliamentary Secretary and others were provided with unlimited supplies of petrol. They have cars, drivers and petrol provided for them at the expense of the taxpayers. Petrol, so far as I know, has on previous occasions been given to members of the Government and to Parliamentary Secretaries to an unlimited extent. Now, I am making the claim—I hope it will not be regarded as unreasonable—that as against the eight gallons of petrol which were given to candidates for their use during the last general election campaign between the date of nomination and polling-day, that a reasonable supply of petrol will, on this occasion, be provided for duly-nominated candidates.
I understand that some few weeks ago the Government took the precaution of getting in a big allocation of paper in anticipation of being given, or of taking, the opportunity to dissolve the Dáil. That is their own business. I suppose that other Parties and candidates going forward will have to look out for themselves as regards getting supplies of paper and envelopes. I do say seriously that the members of the Government and the Parliamentary Secretaries as candidates at the election—that is all they will be after nomination day—have no more right to an unlimited supply of petrol than any other candidate who has been duly nominated on nomination day. I am making the claim to the Minister for Supplies—he may think it unreasonable—that the Front Bench members of other Parties—they do not sit there by accident: they are selected by their own Party—should get the same supply of petrol, whatever the quantity may be, as members of the Government and Parliamentary Secretaries get, and that a more reasonable supply of petrol than was given at the last election should be given to all other candidates who will be nominated.
I would like to add a word or two on the matter on which Deputy Davin has just spoken. It is one of the tests by which we can judge the fairness with which the election is intended to be conducted. It is a matter of very great importance. We know that at the last election something in the neighbourhood of 14 cars were on the road, all supplied by the taxpayer, with petrol which was also supplied and paid for by the taxpayer, to take the foremost representatives of the Government around the country, while others certainly had to pay for the petrol used in their own cars. That is an obligation that can still be shouldered, but we do want to see, as Deputy Davin has said, whether or not supplies, with some sort of appreciation of their strength, will be made available to those who speak for other Parties in the House and who, united, are of greater strength than the people who represent the Government.
Deputy Donnellan spoke to-day of the deplorable death of democracy. If the Deputy should not come back to this House, and I do not wish him any harm in that matter, he will be able to look on last night as at least the last flicker in the life of democracy when every member of every single Party, with one solitary exception, went in to vote against the Government. One Party Whip cracked over there, and they all came to heel. It was at least remarkable that every other Party in the House could forget Party differences to meet in a combination on the matter that was before us last night. What was the matter about which democracy flared into life last night and broke through Party differences? This: that a particular piece of legislation, which was being forced with indecent haste before this Dáil, should be at least delayed and have its merits considered when a particular tribunal had reported.
What is the tribunal? One which was set up here on demand from the House, a judicial tribunal against which no criticism can be levelled. We were told last night it was not merely brought into existence at the request of members of this House but a person who was not a member of the House was introduced twice into the debate last night; Mr. Reynolds also wanted the tribunal set up. That tribunal has met, certain of its discussions have taken place in public, and the people are agitated. A healthy breeze will blow here from the courts one of these days, dissipating rumours, putting an end to all the fog that has got in and around this matter. The Minister was asked, not to deprive himself of his Bill, but simply to wait for a month or six weeks until that healthy breeze might blow in here from the courts. But the Minister would spur on with indecent speed to this objective of his, neglectful of the real interests of the country and neglectful of the merits of his particular legislation. Who was going to be harmed by delay? One group only. Who was going to be helped by speed? It certainly was not the employees of the company. It certainly was not the stockholders who felt that their case had not yet been put properly before the House.
It was not the users of vehicles through the country who felt that their position was still jeopardised, notwithstanding Ministerial promises. There was only one group going to benefit by speed and going to be harmed in the slightest by delay and that was this group of speculators whose doings are being investigated in the courts.
Democracy at least wanted a healthy atmosphere about the debate and democracy said simply this: Let us hear what that judicial-minded and independent body, set up by the will of this House, says on this matter and then we will have a healthy atmosphere in which to consider the whole business. There was only, I think, one voice raised from Fianna Fáil Benches all during the debate on the Transport Bill and that came late last night when a Deputy from the West made use of the metaphor that the Bill was a healthy injection of penicillin into the gangrenous body of the Great Southern Railways Company. There are other gangrenous bodies as well as the Great Southern Railways Company that need investigation, other unwholesome and diseased people. We had set up an inquiry and it might be that after that inquiry the surgeon's knife would have to be applied ruthlessly against certain corruption that might be found in certain bodies. But, even though that inquiry was going on and even though it was known that we were fast moving towards a report, the Government would not delay last night, and the House here united Parties for the first time. A fully fledged coalition showed itself here last night against the Government on that simple matter of not making too much speed, reserving judgment on the merits of a Bill until that certain diseased matter had been exposed. On that the Government were defeated and on that you had all this agitation in the Park last night, and you have the situation that the country is being called upon to pass judgment. The nation is called into the decision on a national issue—let there be no mistake about it—on this simple matter, that the Government, through some of its spokesmen, had made promises to certain speculators, and the Government are going to get a national inquiry on that. That is the national issue.
We will be told in a moment that the issue is, of course, stable government. Remember the point on which instability of government has been proved. You want a stable Government to carry through, at reckless speed, with an inquiry on and a report immediate, a Transport Bill. You want a stable Government for the purpose of closing down on whatever revelation that may be coming. That is supposed to be the national issue on which the nation has been called in to give its decision. It is suggested that democracy is still alive. Democracy showed itself rather alive last night, and when we get promulgated through the constituencies just what the situation is, democracy may prove to be not merely alive but kicking as well.
Deputy Donnellan said that men could go to banks on some sort of inside information that leaked out and get advances of thousands of pounds and the situation was that a farmer could not get money. Not merely have we the situation that has been disclosed for years in the House, but in the last three or four days the distinguished head of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society told us of his efforts approaching the Standing Banks Committee to get advances for farmers at something under the ordinary rate, and in the end he described himself as faced with this, that on behalf of that organisation he may have to apply to the Wholesale Co-operative Bank in England.
There is money, and to spare, for the speculator. There is nothing for the honest worker. In the Budget this year the farmers were threatened that as a class they had got off lightly in the matter of taxation and the shadow of taxation looms over them. There is no ease of their situation. That has to be contrasted with what is being inquired into in the courts. There will be no demand here for delay if anything is brought in to ease the position of the farmer. There will be no combination of Parties to delay that. But there is combination of Parties to delay the other matter. The Minister in his Budget speech was silent about emigration. He has his hands up in surrender to unemployment. He has a tear, as I described it before, for those overburdened with the present cost of living. There is no aid for any of these people but the whole of this Parliamentary Assembly, the representative body of the nation, made a decision last night on that small matter of whether or not there should be delay for an inquiry into what promises to be a scandal. Rather than have that scandal disclosed or to wait even to see whether it was a scandal, the Taoiseach is so aghast at the uprising of democracy last night, that he breaks through the spirit even of his own Constitution to get the nation called into the inquiry. After all that Deputy Dr. O'Higgins has said with regard to the irresponsibility of that, we may leave it. The fact is before us: we have an election. Let us, as Deputy Dillon said, welcome it because we can at least get a more wholesome atmosphere when this Dáil again meets than we have surrounding it now in the attempt made last night to choke off discussion, ignore a tribunal already on foot and prevent the report being of any good.
This House was elected by the most democratic system of election possible in any civilised country, that is, by the system of proportional representation based on universal suffrage. Under the system of proportional representation it is possible for every Party and every interest to obtain representation in this House in proportion to their numbers and strength. That is in the best interests of the nation and in the best interests of democracy. But coupled with that system of proportional representation we had an attempt made to foist on the country a narrow system of Party government whereby a minority, by the threat of an election, seek to dictate to the majority of the House. The Farmers' Party were criticised for having allowed the present Government to take office immediately after the last election.
See what you have got for it now.
We allowed them to take office in order to give them an opportunity of governing the country in accordance with the wishes of the people and of carrying out the wishes of the newly-elected Dáil. When the Dáil decided by a majority that the Government should postpone a certain Bill awaiting the report of the judicial tribunal, the Government in a fit of anger and range dissolved Parliament. There we have a threat of a real dictatorship. I believe the people will resent and resist that threat and will ensure that the present Government will not be given an opportunity again to dictate to the people.
In the difficult period of the last 12 months, the Government received very cordial and wholehearted co-operation from all Parties, in dealing with international problems. It would have been possible for Parties to have created difficulties for the Government but, placing the interests of the nation first, they rallied behind the Government in supporting their attitude towards outside Powers. They were not prepared to put Party interests or any passing advantage before the interests of the nation, nor were they prepared to hold the Government to ransom. They were willing to support the Government in order that our neutrality might be preserved and in order that the economic problems confronting the nation might be effectively solved.
There is only one way of securing stability of government under the system of proportional representation and that is by extending that system to the election of a National Executive or Government. You cannot attempt to carry on the narrow Party system of government in conjunction with the system of election by proportional representation and the sooner all Parties realise that the better. The people will welcome the opportunity to express their opinion upon what has been a very painful incident in the life of our country. They will welcome the opportunity to express the opinion that under no circumstance should an Executive Government be allowed to exploit the immense financial and economic power which they wield in order that smart, small sections of the community could make easy money. The people will ensure in this election that for the future there will be clean, honest and efficient administration in this country.
We were all very surprised to learn that there was to be a general election. The Government have let down the House by going to the country on this issue. The issue at this election will be whether the people are going to vote for graft or against graft.
The Deputy is prejudging the findings of the tribunal.
Is it the intention of the Government to make transport available for Deputies from to-day? I want first to protest against the dice being loaded against the ordinary members of the House in the way in which it has been. State cars were used on political activity all over the country by certain persons and the rest of the members were left without any facilities. While I welcome the election I do not want the dice to be unduly loaded. It will be loaded against us to a certain extent. We have to tolerate that, but I want a definite statement from the Taoiseach when he is replying as to what the position will be in regard to petrol for election purposes.
I wish briefly to express my regrets, in common with other Deputies who have spoken to-day, that the Taoiseach has called for a general election in the present circumstances. I am not making any charges against the Taoiseach, but charges have been made, and it has been fairly proved that the Taoiseach is simply a dictator and that the Fianna Fáil Party are simply a lot of yes-men.
I cannot understand the action of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, no more than I can understand the action of the Taoiseach. Last evening, the Minister was presented with an alternative which he might have accepted, as he gave some evidence of willingness, in his reply, to accept in spirit, at any rate, some of the amendments suggested by the Opposition. If the Minister had taken that course and had postponed for a week or so further discussion on this measure, with a view to introducing amendments himself, this whole position might have been avoided.
However, I am more concerned with the effect this election will have on certain disturbing elements in this State. The Minister for Justice is doing his job very well. I know that he is very concerned about maintaining law and order in the country and he is doing that important job well. These times of stress have been referred to by all Parties, and the spokesman of the Farmers' Party has mentioned the wantonness of the Taoiseach in calling for a general election at a time when every effort of the nation is required to produce food, fuel and other necessities of life.
I take it that every member of the House is constitutionally-minded— otherwise he is here under false pretence—and anxious to preserve the rights laid down in the Constitution; but this drastic action will lend a good deal of credence to the statements of members of subversive elements outside the House who are not so constitutionally-minded as they pretend to be. I am afraid they may now gain further strength in trying to undermine the Constitution by most unconstitutional methods. That is one of the gravest results of the decision to hold an election at the present time.
There will be a multiplicity of Parties going up for election, and I doubt if, under those circumstances, the best type of representative will be sent up to the new Dáil. I can quite envisage a time when an apt pupil in one of our national schools, asked "What is Eire most remarkable for?" will not mention its genius in literature or art, but will say: "Eire is remarkable for one thing only—for perpetual general elections."
I am sorry that the Taoiseach has taken this step. For some time past he has done things which, possibly, may not be very statesmanlike. On the other hand, he has done things which were evidence of remarkably good statesmanship. I am afraid he will lose in the estimation of many citizens of this State, who oriented towards him because of his personality and because of some of his views. I regret it very much in the interests of the nation as a whole and in the interests of the removal of that barrier which we all hope one of these days will be broken down, namely, the Border. I doubt very much if any sensible man on the other side of the Border, any sensible voter, would change places with anybody on this side of it. We do not find them having general elections so frequently as we do here.
Deputy Davin asked some questions a moment ago as to whether Deputies of other Parties will get the same privileges as the members of the Fianna Fáil Party. I understand that it is now recognised that the Department of Local Government will notify the electors of their numbers and indicate where they shall vote. That is all right. But we all know that large quantities of envelopes and notepaper will be required for the purposes of the election.
I sincerely hope that the Taoiseach, if he is such a dictator as evidently some Deputies think he is, will make some attempt to guide his followers and counsel them not to malign or libel their political opponents. It is well established now, I think, that every section of the Irish people is united behind the Taoiseach and his Government in maintaining our neutrality. We had the power, and we availed of it, to say "No" under the Statute of Westminster. What good would our freedom be if we were not entitled to say "No"? Every advantage was taken of that wonderful instrument that was brought into being by the Cosgrave Government, the Statute of Westminster, which enables us to do all these things and enables the Taoiseach to say "No" when our position of neutrality is questioned.
I sincerely hope that some of our people who are now in opposition will not be subjected to slanderous and filthy statements such as were made against candidates other than Fianna Fáil candidates who were seeking election on the last occasion. One of the decentest and finest characters that ever entered the Oireachtas was ex-Senator John T. O'Farrell. That man was subjected to the most awful slanders. It was said about many of us that if we were elected the bombs of the enemy would be dropping on us in a very short time. I hope, in view of the fact that all Parties in this House have stood together in-opposing the attempts to break down our neutrality, that similar tactics will not be adopted on this occasion. If such tactics are permitted, it will be a negation of all that the Taoiseach has declared he stands for; it will be a negation of all the propaganda we used against being brought into the war.
If at any time during this forthcoming campaign it is said that any of our people are imperialists, so that bombs will be let loose on the country if we are returned, we know what the answer will be. I, at any rate, know what my answer will be. I am warning the members of the Fianna Fáil Party that if there is any breach of our neutrality it will be due to the allegations and personalities and slanderous statements made by those who are on the Fianna Fáil Benches.
I regret that the Taoiseach has thought fit to dissolve the Dáil. That action will not help our people; it will retard our people. Every effort should be directed towards the provision of the necessities that were mentioned in the course of this debate. I hope nothing will be said or done during the coming election campaign that will bring a blush to the cheeks of any decent Irishman.
There is not a member of the House who did not know last night that, when the Government were defeated on the Second Reading of the Transport Bill, the Government's powers of properly safeguarding the interests of the country were practically at an end. We came in here, roughly, a year ago without having a Party sufficiently strong to put through its policy. If you look at the Parliamentary Debates of the 2nd July you will see that I pointed out then that it was possible for a combination of Parties, at any time and on any issue, to defeat the Government. I said that we were prepared, although it was a most unsatisfactory position, to carry on, and I indicated quite clearly that, in my view, the position was one which could only be settled by an appeal to the people again. I was reluctant to do that and we said we would carry on, but it was quite clear to anybody at any time that once the Government were defeated on such an occasion as the Second Reading of a Bill, because that was what was done——
It was. We pointed out clearly that we wanted to put that Bill through in the ordinary way. We said that we wanted the Second Reading of the Bill, but matters were brought in which had nothing whatever to do with the Bill.
That is wrong.
There was a debate here lasting two or three days on matters which had nothing to do with the Bill. This Bill was designed a long time previously in the national interest; it was designed as a long-term measure. We were told that there is a tribunal sitting. Yes, there is a tribunal sitting, and it was indicated that when the tribunal reported there was nothing in the Bill which would prevent Parliament taking whatever action is considered necessary on that issue. If there has been politics in this, the politics was on the part of those who brought in an issue which had nothing whatever to do with this Bill. The suggestion is that we are shielding somebody. If anything wrong has been done, it is quite possible for this Parliament to deal with it.
Yes, and it will be possible for the future Parliament to deal with it, too. This Bill was brought in to deal with the transport situation, to try to get the transport situation in as sound a position as early as possible. We indicated yesterday that we were prepared to consider any amendments on the Committee Stage—that that was the stage on which details could be dealt with—but the majority decided otherwise. The Parties combined for that purpose and they outvoted the Government. Is it suggested for one moment that there was going to be a stable Government formed here by a combination of the other Parties?
We did not get a chance.
After the last election the Labour Party and the Farmers' Party were speaking of their independence, that they were not going to combine. There was no other Party to form a Government. Everybody knew that once this Party was defeated, there was no other possibility, in this Dáil as at present constituted, of forming anything like a stable Government. That was the position following the last election. There is nothing wrong, no flouting of democracy, in going to the people to settle the issue—none whatever. It is an inconvenience; may be it is not the time we would choose. We did not defeat the Government in the vote last night.
How many of your members were absent?
There were three members absent. One member of the Government had been under an operation and another member was sick and, so far as I know, the third was sick. There were two definitely sick and I think the third was sick. We are not responsible for the situation that was created. If the majority wanted to out-vote us, it was their right.
One man has been sick for years.
We want to try to settle the situation and we are appealing to the people to settle it. There is nothing wrong or undemocratic about that. It is not the time I would choose for it, if I had the choosing of it. What I do hope is that, just as the last election was carried through without any severance of the things that really mattered for the country, this coming election will be carried through in the same way. I hope the same national spirit then shown by all the Parties will be shown this time.
Loud-speakers, slanderous loud-speakers.
No speaker has been interrupted so far in this debate. A new technique seems to be developing, namely, to interrupt the Taoiseach. That must cease.
Will he stop that?
The Deputy will cease interrupting. He is not obliged to remain in the House.
So far as the campaign is concerned, anything I can do to see that the campaign is carried out properly in the interests of the country as a whole and the decency of political life, I will do as far as I can. I cannot be everywhere but, so far as I can do it, that will be the note on which the campaign will be carried out. So far as facilities are concerned, I do not know what facilities are available, but whatever was done on the last occasion can be done again. I believe that one of the things the country wants is that whatever Government is in office will be a Government that can clearly speak for the people. After the last election it was said that no freer election had been held in this country or in any other country at any time. I hope the same thing can be said as the result of this election. By keeping the national interests and the dangers that undoubtedly are there in mind, I hope we can get through this election as we got through the local elections, which had to be held during the crisis, and the other election also.
I did not ask for a dissolution of the Dáil. This Dáil would not have been meeting to-day if there had been a dissolution. It was within my right, if I wanted, to look for a dissolution. I did not ask for a dissolution, because we passed an Act last year to enable the Dáil, during this critical period, to be brought together at any time that there was need for doing so, so that the Executive at any time would have to assemble the Dáil in case there was any national issue that demanded its assembly. At the same time, as everybody knows, dissolution is the ordinary procedure and, therefore, if it is possible to get on without the assembling of the Dáil that is what will happen. In other words, when the Dáil adjourns now it will not meet again unless there is some national issue which makes it necessary to call the Dáil together.
I have no apology whatever to make for the advice which I gave. The advice could have been rejected. It is set out in the Constitution that a Taoiseach who, apparently, has lost the confidence of the House can ask for a dissolution or, in these particular circumstances, if he wants the alternative, he can ask for a general election. It is clearly set out that the President, at his own discretion completely, can refuse it if he wishes. I asked for it. I put myself in the position of the President and asked myself what I would do if I had been appealed to in circumstances of that sort. So far as I am concerned in any case, I would do exactly what the President has done, for this reason, that there is in this House, as everybody knows, no other Party which could form a Government and no other combination of Parties that would be able to carry on the Government for any length of time against the united opposition of this Party. Everybody knows that that is a fact. At the last election the whole campaign was fought on the question of a national Government, but when the Parliament assembled afterwards it was quite obvious that there was no single group prepared to coalesce with the others in order to carry on.
The people will have to settle the matter now, and, as I say, my hope is that this election will be carried through with the same propriety as the last election. If incidents occurred on the last occasion—I accepted the statements that were made—I expressed my sincere sorrow that such things happened, if they did happen—because I am not sure of the facts—if anything happened that would lower our credit or in any way tend to make the decision of the people less authoritative than it should be. It is not fair to ask people to accept the responsibility of governing and not give them the power which should go with that responsibility. A minority Government has got responsibility, but it has not got the power, as was made clear last night. We believed that it was in the interests of the country to get the transport situation put right. We believed that anything arising out of the tribunal could be dealt with separately and apart and there was nothing intrinsic in this Bill which brought it in. If our views with regard to the ordering of public business and trying to get the nation's work done were not to be accepted, then it simply meant that we had the responsibility for doing the work without the power of carrying it out. I hope the people will settle that.
Will the Minister for Supplies tell us whether he intends to stick to the very small supply of petrol provided for ordinary candidates outside members of the Government? Is he standing over an unlimited allocation for members of the Government and Parliamentary Secretaries and eight gallons for the remainder of the candidates?
The procedure adopted on the occasion of the election last year was to give an allowance of eight gallons of petrol to every candidate of every Party. Over and above that allocation of petrol to candidates, there were bulk allocations of petrol to political Parties which certainly corresponded to, if they did not exceed, the facilities available to the Government.
That is ridiculous. Did not the Minister and all the Ministers drive all round the country?
What quantity of petrol would the Deputy regard as sufficient bulk allocation for the Fine Gael Party for a period of two weeks to give them the same facilities as the Government will have through the service of official cars?
An allocation which will allow them to drive——
Will the Deputy put a quantity on it?
You could not put a quantity on it.
I assure the House that adequate facilities will be given to all Parties in the matter of petrol, but I am going to make sure that this seeking to represent that they did not get these facilities in the past is exposed. They got these facilities at the last election and the Leaders of the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party, and the other Parties drove round the country just as Ministers did. Ample petrol was given to every party.
Is it not a fact that one Parliamentary Secretary representing a certain constituency got 180 gallons of petrol at the last election which was drawn from the Guards——
I do not know whether he did or not.
——while ordinary candidates in that constituency could get only eight gallons? Is it fair that 15 or 16 members sitting in the first and second benches opposite should get unlimited supplies of petrol, with free cars and free drivers, while all the other candidates are to get only eight gallons?
The Deputy must be reasonable in this matter. Members of other Parties contesting an election have nothing else to do, but the business of the Government does not stop while an election is proceeding. Ministers are still Ministers; they still have to discharge the responsibilities of office. If they have transport facilities, it is because, in addition to the election work which all candidates are engaged in, they have to do precisely the same amount of administrative work as they would have to do if there were no election. That applies to Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, and surely it is reasonable to expect that Ministers who have that administrative work to do simultaneously with their election activities should be provided with transport facilities. It is entirely unfair to assume that a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary fighting an election is in the same position as any other candidate.
Could you not publish the amounts being given to all Parties? Is that not the easiest way to settle it?
So far as the Fianna Fáil Party is concerned, it got none.
Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries got it.
The bulk allowances given—I am speaking from recollection —were confined to the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party. Smaller allowances were given to certain other Parties which contested that election, only one of which eventually appeared in the Dáil.
That will not happen this time, I hope.
I can assure Deputy Donnellan that he will get a bulk allowance which will correspond to the representation which his Party has in this House. It was on the representation in the House that the allocation was based.
For the Minister's information, we got one car and 20 gallons of petrol.
The Deputy's Party had no representation in the previous Dáil. It got precisely the same treatment as Córas na Poblachta, Ailtiri na hAiseirghe and other Parties. Clann na Talmhan proved that they had more serious political pretensions than the other Parties and got representation in the Dáil.
Are we not entitled to as much petrol as any other Party?
I explained that, on the occasion of the previous allocation, petrol was allocated to Parties on the basis of their representation in the House.
Therefore, we should not have got any.
But you did, and you will get much more on this occasion because you have representation which you had not got then.
May I put this point to the Minister? I will accept his word if he denies it. Is it not a fact that this Party got 100 gallons while one Parliamentary Secretary alone was able to get 180?
The Deputy's Party got several times that amount.
One hundred gallons as against 180 gallons for one Parliamentary Secretary.
Both Fine Gael and the Labour Party got all the petrol they asked for. They certainly did not represent at the time that the quantity given to them was unreasonable, and, in the case of the Labour Party, it was substantially more than 100 gallons.
I remember that I got eight gallons on the last occasion. Can we have an assurance that we shall get that quantity on this occasion?
Will the Minister do his best for individual Deputies?
Yes. The allocation, of course, is not to individual Deputies but to individual candidates and there are far more candidates than there are Deputies eventually.
From what date will whatever petrol is being made available be available?
In the course of this week, but to candidates only when nominated.
Can the Minister say that candidates will get the allowance they got on the last occasion?
It will be available for all candidates. The petrol is issued to candidates irrespective of the Party by which they are nominated.
From, the date on which the candidates are nominated, they will get petrol and permits. I insist that so far as the front benches of this Party, the Labour Party and the Farmers' Party are concerned, from the moment the flag fell this morning, we should have authority to take out our own cars, the cars which we have taxed and paid for ourselves. We should be able to take those out, and, wherever you drive a car, we should be able to drive a car also.
The allocation of petrol will be made to the Party. Clearly, it cannot be made to candidates until we know who the candidates are.
I am speaking of a permit to use a car.
There will be no difficulty about permits, and there was no difficulty about permits on the last occasion.
On the contrary.