That a sum not exceeding £71,643 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1946, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for External Affairs, and of certain Services administered by that Office (No. 16 of 1924).
The Vote for External Affairs is higher than last year by the sum of £9,064. There are no significant increases or changes in the staff of the Department. The increase arises in a purely routine way, partly from the additional provision for Civil Service bonus under sub-head A (1), and partly from the increased provision made under sub-head B (1) to enable the staffs of certain Legations on the Continent to meet the abnormal living costs in the countries to which they are accredited.
As before, the extra Exchequer receipts in connection with this service are estimated at the figure of £35,000. The actual receipts last year actually exceeded this estimate by several thousands of pounds. This substantial income to the Exchequer, representing as it does nearly 30 per cent. of the amount of the Vote, must, of course, be borne in mind in assessing the net cost of the service. It is true that these extra Exchequer receipts include the fees received for the issue and renewal of travel permits, a source of income which will, of course, cease to be available when the travel permit system comes to an end. On the other hand, the amount of the Vote includes provision for the staffs engaged on the issue and renewal of travel permits, and these are not inconsiderable. The numbers vary to some extent at different periods of the year, but, on the average, there are about 20 officers engaged whole-time on this work in the Department and about the same number in London.
At the time when this Vote was prepared, provision was made for the Legation in Germany for the full financial year. As Deputies probably know already, however, our representatives left Germany in May, shortly after the beginning of the financial year, and we no longer have any Legation in that country.
When I was introducing this Estimate in recent years, I tried to give the Dáil as full as possible a picture of what I might call the ordinary administrative work of this Department. I do not think there is anything that I can usefully add to the account which I gave the Dáil on those occasions. The various activities which I described then have continued on much the same lines during the last 12 months, and there is no purpose in taking up time in going over ground which is already familiar to Deputies.
Now that the war in Europe is over, of course, certain types of work, which arose out of the emergency and were specially related to the circumstances of the war years, are gradually coming to an end. For example, I explained before how the Department helped people here to keep in touch with their relatives on the Continent, and to send them funds required for their maintenance, at a time when communication was impossible otherwise than through official channels. A considerable number of cases of this kind were dealt with in the Department. Now that postal and banking communications with various European countries are being restored, action by the Department in this type of case is no longer normally required. I might quote other examples. In areas which were the scene of active hostilities, or under military occupation, our Legations were frequently called on to help Irish citizens who were interned or imprisoned under various war-time regulations; they were also reponsible for protecting the property and goods of Irish citizens, for making claims when they were damaged, and so on. This is another type of activity which can be expected to come to an end now that hostilities on the Continent have ceased.
On the other hand, war-time restrictions on passenger travel still remain in force to a large extent and, so far as present indications are concerned, they are likely to do so for some time yet. It must be remembered that the official restrictions are not the only limitation on travel between the two countries— Britain and ourselves. There is also the physical restriction imposed by the limited amount of travel accommodation available.
Indeed, particularly where travel from Great Britain to this country is concerned, the position at the moment appears to be that more people are able to obtain the necessary travel permits and visas than can find transport accommodation within the required time to get them to their destination.
Other war-time restrictions which, to a large extent, are still in force are those affecting overseas trade, supplies and shipping. Exports from most countries are still subject to official permits; certain raw materials can be purchased only within limits allocated by combined boards set up by the principal belligerents; navicerts are still required not only for each consignment shipped by sea, but for each voyage of each vessel.
Steps are now being taken to allocate and despatch the food and other supplies laid aside for European relief, of which I have given the Dáil particulars in a recent statement. Measures to effect the necessary curtailment of our home consumption are now being brought into force and the Dáil will be asked immediately to pass a Vote of £3,000,000 to cover whatever expenditure out of public funds may prove necessary.
I might perhaps draw the attention of Deputies to the increase in the provision of our contributions to the Inter-Governmental Committee on Refugees—sub-head A (6). This body was set up in 1938 to deal with the Austro-German refugee problem. Originally, it had a membership of 31 Governments, including the Government of this country. During the war, the committee's work was greatly restricted by the political situation and by the military developments on the Continent, but the committee remained in being, and we maintained our membership of it. Recently, as a result of meetings held in 1943 and 1944, the scope of the committee's functions was extended. Its original mandate was confined to negotiations for the resettlement of people of German and Austrian origin who had been forced to emigrate. The mandate has now been extended to cover all persons who have had to leave their countries of residence because of danger to their lives and liberties on account of their race, religion or political beliefs. At the same time, a number of other Governments were invited to join the committee.
There are now 37 members of the committee compared with the original 31. The committee maintains close co-operation with other bodies in the same field of work, such as U.N.R.R.A. and the International Red Cross. It proceeds mainly by means of negotiations with individual Governments, and most of these negotiations are carried on by the committee's executive staff under the Director, Sir Herbert Emerson, who is also High Commissioner for Refugees. For the moment, the only financial obligation falling on member Governments by virtue of their membership is the cost of this executive staff. The staff has had to be increased to meet the committee's new responsibilities, but, as our share of this expenditure is only 10 out of a total of 791 units, our contribution for the current year amounts to no more than the modest sum provided in the sub-head.
Although I referred in my earlier remarks to the prospect that certain activities of this Department which grew up during the emergency would come to an end with the conditions which gave rise to them, I do not want to give the impression that this is a Vote which is likely to decrease with the passage of the years. Indeed, the question we have to consider is whether our existing representation abroad is on a sufficient scale, whether it is adequate for the due protection and advancement of our interest and the due performance of the tasks which may require to be faced in furture. There are a number of countries with which we have at present no direct contact and with which we would welcome an exchange of representatives. Moreover, as the Minister for Supplies said the other day, the staffs of some of our existing missions may need to be strengthened if, for example, the existing official controls on trade are maintained or if we ourselves have to face the task of developing export markets in hard currency countries. We are a small country, of course. What is done in the matter of foreign representation by countries which are larger than ours and which have different political and trade interests is not necessarily a guide as to what would be proper and useful in our case but we have our place in the world. We have our citizens and our trade and other interests to protect and we have the responsibility of making our national outlook and policies known and understood abroad. It would be a great mistake to allow our responsibilities in this regard to go by default and that would be the consequence if we allowed the machinery of our foreign representation to fall short of the practical needs.
Last week Deputy Dillon wanted to know if we were a republic, and pretended that I was the only person who knew the answer. He asked in fact two questions, one of which was easy to answer, the other not so easy. He asked was this State a republic, and were we a member State of the British Commonwealth. When I told him that we were a republic his surprise was, as a friend remarked, like that of Moliere's Bourgeois Gentilhomme when he learned that he had been speaking prose all his life. Of course the pretence that I alone could answer is plainly ráiméis. The State is what it is, not what I say or think it is. How a particular State is to be classified politically is a matter not to be settled by the ipse dixit of any person but by observation of the State's institutions and an examination of its fundamental laws.
Our one fundamental law is the Constitution. A written Constitution, it was submitted to and enacted by the people in a plebiscite taken on adult suffrage on July 1st, 1937. It came into operation on the 29th December, 1937. The first President, Dr. Hyde, entered upon office on the 25th June, 1938, and the organs of State provided for by the Constitution were all fully functioning from that date. A period of three years was allowed during which with the President's consent amendments to the Constitution might be made by the Legislature simply. That period has long since expired, and no change in the Constitution can now be made except by a vote of the people in a Referendum.
Let us glance for a moment at some of the provisions of that fundamental law so that we may realise its character, and the character of our State. Article 5 declares the State to be "sovereign", "independent" and "democratic". Article 6 (1) declares that "all powers of Government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the State and, in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good". Article 6 (2) declares that "these powers of Government are exercisable only by or on the authority of the organs of State established by this Constitution". Article 12 provides for a President to be elected by direct vote of the people for a period of seven years "who shall take precedence over all other persons in the State and who shall exercise and perform the powers and functions conferred on the President by this Constitution and by law". Article 15 states that the National Parliament shall consist of the President and two Houses—the House of Representatives, Dáil Eireann, and a second, Seanad Eireann—constituting, all three together, the Oireachtas, in which is vested "the sole and exclusive power of making laws for the State". Article 28 provides that "the executive power of the State shall, subject to the provisions of this Constitution, be exercised by, or on the authority of, the Government".
The State whose institutions correspond to these Articles is, it seems to me, demonstrably a republic. Let us look up any standard text on political theory, look up any standard book of reference and get from any of them any definition of a republic or any description of what a republic is and judge whether our State does not possess every characteristic mark by which a republic can be distinguished or reconginised. We are a democracy with the ultimate sovereign power resting with the people—a representative democracy with the various organs of State functioning under a written Constitution, with the executive authority controlled by Parliament, with an independent judiciary functioning under the Constitution and the law, and with a Head of State directly elected by the people for a definite term of office.
To save members of the Dáil the trouble of looking up references, I have collected a few. I give first a relevant passage from the Encyclopedia Britannica (14th Edition):—
"REPUBLIC.—A State in which the supreme power rests in the people, or in officers elected by them, to whom the people have delegated power sufficient to enable them to perform the duties required of them. In the small republics of antiquity the people usually expressed their preference directly, but in the larger republics of modern times representatives are elected to sit in lawmaking bodies. The Head of the State is usually elected directly, and in modern usage this fact distinguishes a republic from a monarchy in which the Head is hereditary..."
The Encyclopedia Americana (1937 Edition) says:—
"REPUBLIC.—A word signifying a State in which the people are the source of power."
I give next a similar passage from the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (Second Edition):—
"REPUBLIC.—A State in which the supreme power rests in the people and their elected representatives or officers, as opposed to one governed by a king or the like; a commonwealth."
Here is what Webster's International Dictionary says:—
"REPUBLIC.—A State in which the sovereign power resides in the whole body of the people, and is exercised by representatives elected by them; a commonwealth..."
The following is from the New Standard Dictionary of the English Language:—
"REPUBLIC.—A State in which the sovereignty resides in the people and the administration is lodged in officers elected by and representing the people; a representative democracy..."
It goes on to say:—
"Republics had their origin in opposition to hereditary monarchy, as in Greece, Rome, and America, and their essential features have been the control of the executive by election and by laws proceeding from assemblies of enfranchised classes... Nearly all modern republics have a written constitution, practise manhood suffrage, vest sovereignty in the voters, choose the executive indirectly, as by some from of electoral college, or by the legislature, as in France or Switzerland, and entrust legislation to two co-ordinate chambers or houses, while the judiciary forms a co-ordinate branch of government, invested with power to pronounce on the constitutionality of laws and of executive acts...”
Chambers' Dictionary has the following:—
"Republic is a form of Government without a monarch in which the supreme power is vested in representatives elected by the people."
Dictionaries and Encyclopedias in other languages give definitions and descriptions in no wise essentially differing from these. If anyone still persists in maintaining that our State is not a republic I cannot argue with him for we have no common language. There is no common set of words and ideas between us.
A republic is sometimes defined as a democratic contrast to a monarchy. Is it suggested that we have a hereditary ruler or monarch in our State? It would indeed be strange if we were a monarchy and our fundamental law did not show the monarch as an integral part of either our legislative, our executive or our judicial authority. This is where the monarch functions in all monarchical States.
Is it argued that, because we have the External Relations Act of 1936, our State is a monarchy? I do not think any constitutional lawyer of repute would attempt to maintain such a thesis. By this Act, so long as we are "associated with the following nations, that is to say, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and South Africa, and so long as the King, recognised by those nations as the symbol of their co-operation, continues to act on behalf of each of those nations (on the advice of the several Governments thereof) for the purposes of the appointment of diplomatic and consular representatives and the conclusion of international agreements, the King so recognised" is permitted and authorised to act on our behalf for like purposes as and when advised by the Government.
This External Relations Act is a simple statute repealable by the legislature and not a fundamental law. As a law it is, in fact, null and void to any extent whatever in which it conflicts with our only fundamental law, the Constitution. It is a simple enabling Act to permit of the carrying out of the external policy of the State in the field of international relations as indicated and provided for in Article 29 (4) of the Constitution and nothing more. This may be regarded as a unique arrangement. I am not disposed to question a statement of this sort. The situation which it was designed to fit, and for a number of years has effectively fitted, was likewise unique. The position, as I conceive it to be, is this: We are an independent republic, associated as a matter of our external policy with the States of the British Commonwealth. To mark this association, we avail ourselves of the procedure of the External Relations Act just quoted, by which the King recognised by the States of the British Commonwealth therein named acts for us, under advice, in certain specified matters in the field of our external relations.
And now, to Deputy Dillon's second question—are we or are we not a member of the British Commonwealth? That is a question for which the material necessary for a conclusive answer is not fully available. It depends on what the essential element is in the constitution of the British Commonwealth.
The British Commonwealth claims to be an elastic, growing, developing organism and the statemen of the Common wealth have, I think, adopted the view of Joseph de Maistre that "In all political systems there are relationships which it is wiser to leave undefined." I can only say that, without any request or reference or suggestion from us, on the day on which our Constitution came into force, viz., 29th December, 1937, the following communication was issued from 10 Downing Street, and published in the Press on the following day:
"His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have considered the position created by the new Constitution which was approved by the Parliament of the Irish Free State in June, 1937, and came into force on December 29.
They are prepared to treat the new Constitution as not effecting a fundamental alteration in the position of the Irish Free State—in future to be described under the new Constitution as ‘Eire' or ‘Ireland'—as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have ascertained that His Majesty's Government in Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa are also prepared so to treat the new Constitution."