Whatever may be the consequences of the proposed alignment of Parties, it will definitely be the result of our proportional representation system. Proportional representation was introduced here many years ago. Theoretically it is sound and, down the years, it has been accepted as a good method of election. It has, indeed, become part of our Constitution. That was no hasty decision; it was a decision arrived at after many years of experience. The people were appealed to, to return a strong party Government; but the election did not result that way. I submit that that position is due largely to the principles embodied in the system of proportional representation, which has been stabilised in our Constitution. Yet, I believe that what was good for all the years up to now, what was accepted as democratically sound, even if it is inconvenient at such a stage as this, should be accepted as a good, sound method of representation.
The result of the election has created a situation here which is not entirely unique. Similar situations developed in the past. They have been met in various ways; on some occasions they have been met by the major Party forming a Government with the assistance of smaller Parties.
This occasion is unique in so far as the smaller Parties have combined and, having a majority, have determined to form a Government. All that is quite within the rights conferred by the Constitution. It is the outcome of the system of proportional representation which aims at giving representation to minorities. If that principle be right at the beginning, then its embodiment in its entirety is also right if smaller bodies come together and, as such, carry on the government of the State. The only thing that creates a sensation on this occasion is the fact that that proposition—the logical and reasonable conclusion to our system of election— is now for the first time being put into effect.
Deputy O'Reilly of Cavan has made an appeal that all Parties should combine at this stage. That, of course, would be the ideal position, but, remember, an Opposition is always required, no matter what form of Government you have. I am not at all satisfied that a unanimous combination of all Parties would, in itself, make the best Government. I realise, however, that we are dealing with a situation at the present time that may call for extraordinary valour. It has been stated by responsible people not only in this House but outside of it— by people inside and outside of England and outside of Europe—that a very extraordinary situation exists in the world at the present time. We see the menace there is to Europe which, apparently, is going to be the battle-field. That battle-field has been prepared by countries outside of Europe. We see the internal position in the case of our next-door neighbour —England. We see how her financial foundations are tottering and are being shattered in the present crisis. We have our leaders—the Pope, the Irish Hierarchy and other responsible people —teaching us and telling us of the menace that confronts us. Perhaps, this is the time when such a gesture should be made for the first time in the history of this State-the gesture to have a Government representative of all Parties so that we might be able to meet that menace. To the simplest person, that menace must be obvious. I am not suggesting that at any time of crisis in this country Parties have not combined to indicate that they were prepared to act as a united force to meet any menace that might arise. Should such a situation develop in the future, I have no doubt unity will again make itself manifest. I say that because there are men in the different Parties in this House who have already given evidence of their unselfishness and of their willingness to sacrifice themselves in the interests of their country. They may be divided for the time being on Party policies, but where this nation's interests are concerned we can say to the world that they are not governed by foreign or by international interests. Our interests are entirely controlled, and centred in the defence of our country.
Perhaps at this juncture I may sound the note of appeal and of warning that we are going to have an experiment in Government. It might also be well if we had a further experiment by one group, representative of all Parties, but perhaps one experiment at a time is sufficient. Members of this House have to interpret, according to their lights, the authority which they received when they were elected to it. I have to interpret mine. I have been returned to this House as an Independent Deputy. I recognise full well that I was returned by a majority of people who have Fianna Fáil leanings. They returned me contrary to the advice of the leaders of Fianna Fáil who, quite definitely, did me a serious wrong, as far as they were concerned, by refusing me an investigation. I have no leanings towards the Leader of Fianna Fáil, but my personal feelings in the matter must be sunk in spite of his effort to destroy me and to malign me, and to put an imputation on my character and on my children's characters. I worked for years in Leitrim and outside of it in the building up of Fianna Fáil and, in earlier years, of Sinn Féin, yet in spite of all these implications a sufficient number of people who still believe in Eamon de Valera as Leader and in his Fianna Fáil policy repudiated his advice and backed my return as a member of this House. Their ambition, however, is that Eamon de Valera should still be Leader. Personally, I do not think so, but I must interpret the wishes of the people who elected me and I am going to give expression to them to-day. I am, accordingly, going to vote for Eamon de Valera. I am not asking too much, I think, if I support the claim put forward by Deputy O'Reilly, of Cavan, namely, that the Fianna Fáil Party should take the same view as that expressed by the Deputy and enter into an agreement with the other Parties at this stage. I suggest they should do that in view of the present world situation which is so serious. The suggestion is that they should agree on the formation of one common Government for this country, thereby setting an example to the whole world. If that were done it might have the effect of creating a better feeling amongst those countries which are now drifting so widely apart and are preparing for the next world war. Such a gesture, if acted upon, might have a very good effect indeed.
The new proposal made on behalf of the different Parties for the formation of a Government is quite within the Constitution and in accordance with the method of election enshrined in the Constitution. It is really a good experiment, and I hope it will be successful. I have no animosity towards that proposal. As I have said, I believe that the policy of Fianna Fáil was good. It was fundamentally good. It gave us a secure Government and encouraged industry. It encouraged, as far as possible, enterprise, and did its best within the limits of the resources of this State, to provide social services for the most necessitous sections of our people. If it is possible for another Party to do these things better, then I say welcome to that new Party. I will watch with interest the setting up of a joint programme by combined Parties in this Dáil. If that policy is generally sound, if it can protect and develop and give the necessary stimulus to our agricultural and industrial production, if it can improve upon the present position, it will be a God-send. I hope it will improve, above all things, one section of the community whom I represent— for whom I have always spoken, but my words have fallen on deaf ears in this House—the victims of the conquest in the past, the refugees who were driven before the Cromwellian and Elizabethan conquerors. They have never been redeemed from their position, and shame on the national Governments for their neglect. There is no country that has not, as its first consideration, given attention to the refugees. The people who were driven from their homes in the early conquests back into the bogs of Connaught, Clare and Kerry have been neglected. There is a lot of patriotism and drumbeating now about the Six Counties and the neglect of the partitioned part of the country, but more necessitous and more imminent was the necessity, according to justice, to attend to the wounded soldiers or refugees driven from their homes by the conquerors in the past, under terrible conditions, and their successors forced to live still under terrible conditions.
If a Party forms a Government here that will embody a scheme to deal with that national outrage, it will receive from me sincere sympathy and help. As things look, with a proposed government grouping of Parties coming to power, I will watch with interest their programme. I will watch to see how far they can embody schemes to make better conditions for the people who are poor and have been neglected. In the meantime, I repeat that the policy of Fianna Fáil has been sound and has given confidence and proper results. Many people will be sorry if they are turned out of office, as they were well led, generally, in national and international matters. I have had to complain of Deputy Eamon de Valera's treatment of me, but it is no reason why I should say he has not proven to be a worthy leader of this country. In so far as public opinion goes, judged from the size of his Party, he is still regarded as the first preference as leader. It is a pity that he cannot see his way, after all these years, to sacrifice his will by having his Party included in any Government that may be to-day born.