Committee on Finance. - Report of Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

I move:—

That Dáil Éireann hereby approves the report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges which was presented to the House on the 17th February, 1949, and calls on the Government to give effect to its recommendations.

Deputies will no doubt recollect that the report of the Committee on Procecedure and Privileges to which the motion relates was that dealing with statements in reference to a member of the Dáil made by the Minister for Agriculture in the Dáil on 14th December, 1948. Most Deputies, I am sure, will remember the nature of these statements. In the course of a debate on 14th December last, the Minister for Agriculture alleged that the Irish Beet Growers' Association had advised farmers in County Galway not to take for use on their lands beet factory lime and that they advised the farmers not to take the lime for the purpose of leaving more of it available to themselves, and he implied that Deputy Corry, as an executive member of the Beet Growers' Association, was involved in that discreditable business for his own advantage.

Some Deputies and other persons have asked why Deputies on this side of the House appear to attach such importance to this matter. It has been pointed out that nobody nowadays takes very seriously allegations against the personal character of political opponents made by the Minister for Agriculture. Since he was first elected to this Dáil, he has made a habit of meeting criticism of himself by publicising unfounded allegations against the character of his critics.

A certain matter was referred to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, to consider a statement made by the Minister for Agriculture during the debate on agriculture on a certain date which implied a reflection on the probity of Deputy Corry in connection with the acquisition by him of lime from the two beet sugar factories. Neither the Minister nor the Deputy is on trial now before the House. The question is whether the report of the Committee, which advised that the matter be referred to a judicial tribunal, should be passed or not. That is the question and no other action of the Minister for Agriculture or his general conduct is under discussion.

What I propose to discuss with your agreement, Sir, is the action of the Government, which includes the Minister for Agriculture, in refusing to act on the report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges which considered and reported on his conduct on 14th December.

Did it report on his conduct?

It did report on his conduct.

It reported that a tribunal be set up to try it.

I do not propose to spend much time discussing the habits——

As a matter of accuracy, is it not correct that the Committee recommended that this matter should be sent forward for consideration?

That is what the Chair has stated.

And Deputy Lemass is entirely wrong.

I do not think so, but it does not matter.

Not to Deputy Lemass, whether he is right or wrong.

Neither the past habits nor present character of the Minister for Agriculture may be discussed.

Others have queried whether it was necessary or desirable, or even wise, to proceed with this debate in view of the fact that Deputy Corry is not himself regarded as lighthanded in debate or particular in his choice of weapons. I want, however, to put the case for this motion on the basis on which the Ceann Comhairle put it, namely, that we are not, or should not be, concerned with any issue between the Minister and Deputy Corry. The matter to which the motion relates, all the circumstances which gave rise to the meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and which resulted in the report we are now considering, bear upon the standard of behaviour which it is desirable to establish for members of the Dáil and, in a very special way, for those who are for the time being Ministers of State.

The issue which went to the Committee on Procedure and Priviliges was the conduct of the Minister for Agriculture. Whatever recollections we may have of reckless and offensive statements made by the Minister for Agriculture as a private Deputy, he himself must recognise that, as a Minister, he has greater obligations to the Dáil, and that, in relation to this matter, in view of his original statement in the Dáil, his refusal to withdraw that statement and his consent, as a member of the Government, to the preventing of the adoption of the committee's report, he is not in fact fulfilling the obligations which, in the common opinion, rest upon a Minister of State.

When the Minister made his charge against Deputy Corry—and it is with the charge against Deputy Corry and not against the Beet Growers' Association we are primarily concerned—it was denied, and denied vigorously, by Deputy Corry. It will in fact be obvious to anybody who reads in the Official Reports the statements made by the Minister for Agriculture and considers them in relation to known facts that the charge was ridiculous; but, despite Deputy Corry's denial and despite the opportunity given to the Minister by the Chair, he chose not to withdraw it.

On the contrary, he took the opportunity given to him when the matter was raised on the following day to reiterate the allegation in an even more offensive way. The Minister, according to Press reports, is very quick to order out of his office a member of a deputation who, he thinks, cannot substantiate some statement he makes.

The Deputy seems to be trying the Minister for Agriculture and that trial is not before the House.

Mr. Burke

The Minister is not so very charitable towards others.

The Minister, in relation to Deputy Corry, had an opportunity of substantiating or withdrawing the rotten allegation, and he failed to do one or the other. It is now a question for us whether we are to bring the matter outside this House. The Rules of this House give to those participating in debates here absolute privilege.

They are not liable to be held accountable for statements made here affecting the personal character of anybody and most Deputies recognise that the existence of that absolute privilege places on them a very special obligation to ensure that they do not abuse the privilege. A Deputy who is slandered in this House, a Deputy against whose personal character allegations are made such as those made against Deputy Corry by the Minister for Agriculture, has no redress outside this House, no means of redress whatever except some machinery or tribunal is established by consent to investigate the allegations and dispose of the matter in that way. Because the Minister for Agriculture refused to withdraw his allegations against Deputy Corry when they had been denied by that Deputy, the Ceann Comhairle referred the matter to the only organ of the House competent to consider it, the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, and that Committee, having considered the matter, decided to recommend to the House that the matter referred to them should be investigated by a judicial tribunal. The Government has made it clear already that they are going to use their majority machinery here to prevent the establishment of the judicial tribunal recommended by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

I do not know what objection the Government may have to the investigation by a judicial tribunal of this allegation or any similar allegation that may in future be made, but I can guess. I think that their objection to the investigation of this allegation by a judicial tribunal is based solely on political grounds. We know that members of the Government have treated with contempt similar judicial tribunals which functioned in the past and that in fact it was the Minister for Agriculture who blazoned this contempt by the notorious telegram he sent——

That has nothing to do with this motion.

In my opinion it explains why the Government will not accept the report of the Committee. They are objecting to a judicial tribunal because in the past judicial tribunals have not been very favourable to their political interests.

Without saying anything.

I am making a case. I do not know if the Parliamentary Secretary can understand me.

It is very hard.

They are not in favour of the establishment of a judicial tribunal to investigate the allegation.

I cannot refer, and therefore I do not propose to refer, to allegations which were frequently made in the Dáil in the past before the change of Government some of which found their way to judicial tribunals, one of which reported that not merely were the allegations false and unfounded but that those who made them had no basis for them.

On a point of order, the Deputy is proceeding on the basis that he will not state a thing and then he proceeds to state it.

Has the Deputy a point of order?

The Deputy is completely out of order in his approach to the matter.

The issue which is being discussed here now is whether or not a judicial tribunal should be set up to investigate certain allegations. The allegations were made by the Minister for Agriculture affecting a Deputy of this House and a number of people outside this House. We are mainly concerned with the allegations against the member of this House. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges recommended that there should be a tribunal and the Government are going to use their majority here to prevent the report of the Committee being acted upon. Is that clear? We are here endeavouring to persuade the Government to change its mind or, alternatively, to persuade some Deputies who ordinarily support the Government that in following in this matter they are acting contrary to the public interests, contrary to natural justice and establishing a wrong precedent for the future.

Is it not the purpose of the Deputy to persuade the House rather than to assume in advance that the Government are going to use their majority? You are invalidating your own case by assuming that they are going to use their majority.

I know that the Government is capable of changing its mind from week to week and perhaps it has already changed its mind on this matter, but at the time I am speaking I know, having been informed by the Taoiseach, that he is going to use his majority to defeat the motion—assuming he has a majority. The Taoiseach, when announcing the Government's decision, presumably its unanimous decision recommended by the Minister for Agriculture, to reject the report of the committee and ask the Dáil to reject the report of the committee, intimated that he would not be averse to a motion to refer the matter to a Committee of the Dáil. That sounds a very naive suggestion. I certainly would like to think that we have reached a stage of political development here in which a committee of the Dáil set up upon the basis of giving representation to political parties in proportion to their membership of the Dáil could in a matter of this kind be impartial. I would like to believe that a Committee of the present Dáil with a pro-coalition majority on it would be impartial as between the Minister for Agriculture and Deputy Corry. I would like to think that that Committee would report here unfavourably on the Minister for Agriculture if the facts warranted it. I do not believe it would happen.

The Committee on Procedure and Privileges did so, did they not?

This Dáil, in my view, is by far the most political of which I have been a member and I was first elected in 1924. I have never in any previous Dáil, except perhaps the first of which I was a member, witnessed so frequent an intervention of Party political considerations into debates. It has, in fact, been the experience of every Deputy since the Dáil met on the first day last year that it was impossible to get any issue debated on its merits. The inevitable result of a Coalition arrangement such as now exists is to emphasise the Party political aspect of political affairs.

Will you set a new standard?

I have tried to set a new standard, I think, but I am not prepared to give all the advantages in Party conflicts to the Deputy opposite. It is my belief, however, and the belief of all the Deputies on this side, that with a Government which appears to consider every question from the point of view of Party advantage and backed by a majority of Deputies who are mainly interested in Party matters it would be quite useless to hope that a Committee of this Dáil containing a majority of these Deputies would on a controversial issue between one of their Ministers and an Opposition Deputy be impartial, so impartial that they would condemn the Minister when the facts warranted that course.

A Deputy

Rightly or wrongly.

Having read with disgust of the performance of the Minister for Justice here yesterday I am satisfied that that could not happen. I think Deputy Corry would be exceedingly foolish to put his personal reputation in jeopardy by accepting such a committee in preference to the judicial tribunal which has been recommended by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Is the Minister for Justice on trial now?

The Minister for Justice, as far as I am concerned, is already condemned.

I know that for years. You could not prove it. You made a cowardly charge and ran away from it.

There is probably no member of the House against whom more allegations have been made than against me. I have borne no ill-will against any Deputy who made allegations against me and who subsequently, having found them to be false, withdrew them. In relation to the allegations yesterday, they were found to be false but they were not withdrawn.

Did not you charge me and not withdraw it?

You did not withdraw, you quibbled.

It does not arise anyway.

Is Deputy Lemass going to keep to order?

Mr. Boland

Does Deputy Cowan want to be in the Chair, to be Ceann Comhairle?

We are asking the Dáil to say that the personal reputation of any Deputy, the least important Deputy, if Deputies can in fact be classified in that way—certainly the description does not apply to Deputy Corry—is of sufficient importance to justify an unusual course to defend it when it has been assailed by a Minister.

I think it is not an exaggeration to describe the whole development of Parliamentary Government as a course of building up safeguards for private Deputies against assault by the Executive, and nowadays private Deputies may not be assaulted physically or deprived of their liberty, but they can be assaulted in their character and deprived of their reputation on the word of a Minister. When a Minister makes such an assault there is on him, if he understands his obligations in the matter, an obligation to give to the Deputy concerned the only redress he can have in view of the privileges of the Dáil, the redress of an impartial investigation into the allegations.

The Committee on Procedure and Privileges no doubt recognised that the only possibility of an impartial investigation was by a judicial tribunal. They recommended a judicial tribunal. We are offered instead an investigation by a Committee of the Dáil upon which the Government will have a majority and I refuse to accept that Committee as offering a fair redress to the Deputy whose character has been assailed. I do not think that in this Dáil, at the present stage of our political development, a Deputy whose character has been attacked could feel that he had a fair chance of vindicating himself by submitting the issue to a Committee composed in accordance with the rules governing the appointment of committees in this House. I submit the motion to the Dáil.

I submit it in particular to those Deputies opposite, who are not completely tied to the support of the Government by arrangements with their Party Whips, on this basis: that it will be a reflection on the Dáil and on the fair play of the present members of the Dáil and a most undesirable precedent if this motion is rejected.

Mr. Boland

I second the motion and I reserve the right to speak later.

The Deputy who has just spoken has referred to machined majorities. I am addressing myself to-night on this motion to the conscience of each individual Deputy. I am putting it to this House that this motion should be defeated precisely because, if it were carried, it would create a precedent which would eat irrevocably into the rights of each private individual Deputy. Deputy Lemass, with that pretence of which he is master, purported to appeal to those people whom he said so insultingly were not tied to the Government by Party Whips, whoever they may be. I appeal to them also and I make the case that he failed to make in support of the attitude that I ask this House to adopt.

In so far as it was possible to get any thread of argument whatever from the speech the Deputy has just made, it was an argument in favour of the attitude which I ask this House to adopt. We oppose this motion precisely because by it is raised an issue of principle which transcends in importance the conflict, if there be a conflict, between Deputy Corry and the Minister for Agriculture or the facts of this particular case, because it raises the right of an outside body to inquire into the proceedings of Parliament, the conduct of Deputies and the freedom of speech of each individual Deputy. It has been established in the British Parliament, as Deputy Lemass hinted at a few moments ago, over a long number of years and with a great struggle that it was the democratic right of every member of Parliament freely in Parliament to express his opinions without being amenable to any court or body outside Parliament and to Parliament itself alone. It is for that principle we stand to-night and I ask every individual Deputy who values that democratic right to support the attitude that we are adopting.

I am pleading here for the rights of that person referred to by Deputy Lemass as the humblest Deputy. It is for that reason that we as a Government are taking up the attitude now that we do, and we, the individual members of this Government, took up the same attitude, but possibly not for precisely the same reasons. If we were, as Deputy Lemass purported to suggest trying to use our machined majority, we could very easily circumvent what Deputy Lemass is trying to make us do, as I shall show in a few moments. We could get under the procedure suggested by Deputy Lemass precisely the kind of tribunal which he says so insultingly a Committee of this House would be. Deputy Lemass insulted members of this House when he said that a Committee of this House would not give fair play. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges, whatever they did, did it. Why should not a committee set up to consider this matter do the same thing as was done before?

May I recall to Deputy Lemass's recollection a hearing which took place some years ago, an inquiry into allegations made in this House? Deputy Lemass stated that he would like to think that we had reached such a stage of political development that Deputies would do their duty in accordance with their conscience. That is what he meant when he said that I have sufficient belief in the conscientiousness of Deputies—certainly on this side of the House—to know that they would do their duty in accordance with their conscience on this tribunal as was done some years ago. Would Deputy Lemass bring his attention back to the inquiry into the Wicklow gold mine affair?

There never was another.

On that occasion, I and several of my colleagues sat inquiring into Deputy Lemass' conduct. Others were with me who were in opposition at that time. I think the Tánaiste now, Deputy Norton, was chairman of that committee. We gave a unanimous report on that occasion in accordance with our consience. At least at that time, some years ago, when Fianna Fáil had become the Government, members of the Opposition, including members of the present Government, did their duty in accordance with their conscience and did not vote, as Deputy Lemass thinks the members of this Dáil would do, in accordance with political dictates. There is the precedent. Are we to change it now, although some years ago the Irish Parliament and members of the Irish Parliament had reached such a stage of political development that they were able to do their duty in accordance with conscience and not in accordance with what they were told to do, as Deputy Lemass said, in accordance with political dictates? I see no reason why a committee of that kind, hearing evidence in public—in public, be it marked and emphasised—would not do their duty, even if it were not for any other reason than the fact that the public, having seen the evidence, would be able to judge whether they were acting in accordance with their conscience or with the dictates of the political Party Whips, as Deputy Lemass would have it.

When this matter was raised first, I immediately said to Deputy Lemass that there was a matter of principle involved and for that reason we would not agree to this so-called judicial tribunal—of which I will have a few words to say in a moment—but that we were prepared to have this matter tried in accordance with what we believed to be proper Parliamentary procedure and in strict accordance with the Constitution, by a Committee set up by the Dáil. This motion repudiates that offer. The seriousness of the underlying issues involved in this matter were not, I believe, drawn to the attention of the Committee of Procedure and Privileges when they recommended that there should be a judicial tribunal —as to which, I may say in passing, no such thing exists or can be set up under existing law. The issue was not brought before them. I am now bringing it forward in the interests of every Deputy here. If we had that machined majority to which Deputy Lemass refers, the Government could circumvent it, if they were so politically minded. If we were, as Deputy Lemass so insultingly says, as he is in the habit of saying here and elsewhere, doing something which was against our conscience, we would set up a tribunal which would find irrevocably in favour of the Minister for Agriculture, no matter what the evidence was.

That is a very serious allegation.

That is what could be done. I do not know what Deputy de Valera is laughing at. I am very serious here.

Mr. de Valera

I am not laughing at it at all.

I am very glad to know the Deputy's attitude on that. I would like to emphasise here again, in spite of Deputy de Valera's insulting sniggers, that I am pleading here for the democratic rights of individual members. It is not merely when we have a majority that we are doing something we should do under existing procedure; we did it when we were in opposition. Again Deputy Lemass, with that insulting language of which he is past-master, said that we went in contempt of court. The present Minister for Education—the Deputy may say what he likes about his character, but no one outside this House ever will believe that—went down in court to the Locke Tribunal to assert the individual rights of members of this House.

Mr. Boland

The tribunal said they did not believe it.

He said it in open court—and he went with our full approval when we were in opposition. Now we are in Government—with a machined majority, as Deputy Lemass said we have—and we take the same attitude, for the same reason, in support of private Deputies' rights in this House.

You are afraid of the decision, too.

We have to come back to consider this from the point of view of Parliamentary procedure and Constitutional enactment. It has been laid down as long ago as the Bill of Rights in England that freedom of speech or debate or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached in any court or place outside Parliament. That was the provision of the Bill of Rights. We went further than that in this Constitution and in the other Constitution we had here when the State was set up. The present procedure of this Dáil is governed by Article 15, section (13) of the Constitution:

"The members of each House of the Oireachtas...shall not, in respect of an utterance in either House, be amenable to any court or any authority other than the House itself."

I say to Deputies, to private Deputies, to that Deputy on whose behalf Deputy Lemass was supposed to be speaking, and to the humblest Deputy in the House, that that is his safeguard for freedom of speech. It is his safeguard and privilege, but it is more than that: it is the privilege of the public, because it is in the public interest that Deputies here in this House, whether they are in Government or in opposition—and particularly when in opposition, particularly when they are Independent Deputies attached to no Party—should have freedom of speech. I want to put to any Deputies here who are open to conviction what the effect of Deputy Lemass' motion would be. It would be an infringement of that right and would inevitably put an end to it. That Article of the Constitution, which followed a similar Article in the previous Constitution, which is based upon the Bill of Rights and on the procedure in the British Parliament, is a constitutional declaration that, in respect of utterances in either House of the Oireachtas, the sole judge of the propriety of those utterances is the House itself. That is the constitutional declaration, on which I am standing and on which the Government is standing.

It is not the propriety.

The only judge of anything that is said in the House, of the conduct of a Deputy, of what he says or of the propriety of the charges, or anything else, is the House itself. When we were faced with the situation of the Locke Tribunal, we said the same thing. We made the same case as we are making now, that the proper tribunal to deal with these matters was the House itself—and for the very same reason, that we would not be amenable to any outside body. Deputy Lemass, when he was speaking at the outset of his case, said that this motion related to the standard of behaviour which it is desirable to establish for members of the Dáil and especially for those who happen to be charged with Ministerial responsibility. Is not that a complete statement of the case I am making? Are Deputies going to vote here that an outside body, established by a Government with, as Deputy Lemass would say, a machine-made majority, is to say what the standard of propriety or behaviour of a Deputy is to be in this House? The Constitution lays it down that the only authority which is entitled to say the standard of behaviour which it is desirable to establish for members of the Dáil is the Dáil itself. That has been the principle adopted over centuries in England. We took it from the British Parliamentary practice and from the Bill of Rights and we assert it more strongly even than it is in the Bill of Rights.

There is not a single instance in the whole of the British Parliamentary practice or procedure where a matter of this kind was ever referred to an outside tribunal or body—not a single instance—but we are going now to jeopardise that and, in derogation of the rights of Deputies, to let an outside body, set up by an Executive with a machine-made majority, decide what our behaviour is to be. I ask those Deputies who think on these matters and who, perhaps, have had the importance of the matter brought to their attention for the first time, to think of the seriousness of the principle for which we are standing. We are not standing to shelter the Minister for Agriculture. He was perfectly prepared, as I said that day, to come and meet whatever case was being made against him, before his peers here in the Dáil, in public. Is it to be said that the elected members of Dáil Éireann are not fit, cannot be trusted, as Deputy Lemass said, to do their duty in accordance with their conscience?

We will not stand for that principle at all events; but, as we stood when we were in the Opposition Benches for the principle that it was the right of private Deputies to be protected against the Executive bringing to an outside body matters relating to utterances in this House or the behaviour or conduct of Deputies in this House, we stand for it in Government. Deputy Mulcahy and the others went to the Locke Tribunal, to those members who had been appointed by the then Government, and took that stand and were prepared to fight the case in the Supreme Court and, if necessary, go to jail for it. That was our stand when we were in opposition. Now we are the Government and we are going to take the same stand for the same reason, in the interest of the private Deputy, democratic rights and Parliamentary privilege, and for no other reason whatever.

Deputy Lemass speaks about why we will not do it and he said it is on political grounds. That, of course, is in strict character with the Deputy who made that suggestion and the public can assess the value of that utterance, and it does not need any comment from me because the outside public know the value to place on that statement. We have by our acts shown that we stood for principle and not for political expediency.

Now let me test what the effect of this would be. There is no doubt that it would be the right of Parliament, if there were statutory authority to do so, to refer to an outside body the behaviour or conduct or utterances of members of this House. This House could, if it so demeaned itself, ask people who are not members of the Dáil, people who were never members of the Dáil and did not know its procedure, to set the standard for people in this House.

I want to say this, that if such a body were set up, it would be the duty of any Deputy who was asked to go to give evidence there to refuse to give evidence. I will go further in this and say that it would be the duty of the Ceann Comhairle, as the custodian and guardian of the privileges of Parliament, to take action if such tribunal served a subpoena upon a Deputy to attend there. A Deputy is brought there by subpoena to attend at this so-called judicial tribunal. It is a misnomer. He is called there by this tribunal which can only be set up under a British statute—the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921. He is called there to give evidence before that tribunal as to what he said in Parliament. That is one of the things that has been jealously guarded by the British Parliament and that we ought to guard as to what is said here in Parliament. He is examined as to what he said here in Parliament, questioned and liable to be cross-examined at this tribunal on what he said in Parliament. There is a still further inroad that would be made and that was attempted to be made in the Locke Tribunal and which we fought and which, I believe, we beat. Deputies of this House are asked to state their reasons for certain matters that they wish to bring to the attention of the House. Everybody who has been in this House knows that Governments may be guilty of certain acts which, if they are not exposed to the public, will do very great damage. It is the right and duty of Deputies to find these out, if they can, and expose them. It is the right of each Deputy, when he is given information, conscientiously to act upon that information and, if he decides that he ought to act upon it, then he brings the matter here in public before the Dáil and he says: "I have been informed that such and such a thing has happened." The Ceann Comhairle is the guardian here in the first instance of the propriety of utterances in this House. The ultimate guardian is the House itself.

When the private Deputy makes these charges, conscientiously believing them to be true, they may in fact be true. He may be given information which may expose corruption in the Government. We all know that information of that kind is very hard to get. People who give information which they want Deputies to ventilate in the House are very desirous of keeping their names from publicity as a rule, very frequently because they are afraid of the Government, as they were afraid of the last Government, as we know when we were in opposition we were given information confidentially on certain matters of government and were told: "You must not tell our names, because, if you did, our business would be affected." We were told that again and again.

It did not stop them making the allegations.

Assuming that a private Deputy who, in the course of his duty, comes here acting on information and, assuming it isbona fide given to him, he acts bona fide on it, he acts conscientiously on it. If the information is true, he is brought before this tribunal, set up by the Executive Government and it may be a tribunal not composed of judicial individuals but of nominees of the political Parties under the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, and he will be bound, when asked by that tribunal to tell them, if Deputy Lemass gets his way here, where he got the information, who gave it to him. That is what the Locke Tribunal tried to get some of us to tell the last time. That is what my colleagues refused to give, in exercise of the right they had as Parliamentary representatives.

You had not the information; you invented it. You tried to support the case by perjury.

On a point of order. The Taoiseach in the course of his speech referred on several occasions to the Locke Tribunal. Will it be in order to refer to that tribunal in the course of the reply?

It depends on the manner in which it is referred to.

Apparently, Sir, it will be quite competent for us to refer to it in the same terms as the Taoiseach has referred to it and make the same allegations in relation to him.

I made no allegation against anybody except what I have specifically stated here, without protest, even from the Deputy. I have been drawing attention to the fact that what was done during the Locke Tribunal is precisely analogous to what we are doing here or what is being attempted to be put over this House by Deputy Lemass.

The Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, is the only power that this Dáil has to set up this judicial tribunal and, in passing, I may refer to the sloppy way in which this motion is drafted by Deputy Lemass or by Deputy Boland or whoever did it—"... and calls on the Government to give effect to its recommendations." The Government cannot give effect to the recommendations of the Committee of Procedure and Privileges. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges, not having the facts I have now brought to your attention, recommended the setting up of a judicial tribunal. There is no such thing under the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, and that is the only authority under which we can set up any tribunal under the authority of the House itself. Under that Act there must be a resolution both of the Dáil and the Seanad. How does Deputy Lemass suggest that the Government can give effect to that? How does Deputy Lemass suggest that the Government can get the Seanad to pass a resolution dealing with something that happened in this House? Were it not for the fact that Deputy Lemass has referred to us as being politically minded, I would say the whole of this motion is political and that nobody would be more astonished than Deputy Lemass and all the rest if we accepted it and set up a tribunal. It is the last thing they want.

Under this Act of 1921, which, again I repeat, is the only authority under which a tribunal can be set up, in order that such a tribunal can be set up, there are certain prerequisites: there must be a resolution both of the Dáil and of the Seanad; it must have reference to an inquiry into something which is described as a definite matter and it must be of urgent public importance. What is the urgency of this?

The character of the Deputy.

A man's character.

A man's character.

That is for the House to decide.

It is not.

What is the public importance of it? It may be of importance to Deputy Corry or to the Minister for Agriculture, whichever side can establish its case, but its public importance is not in my view, I suggest to the House, of any consequence in connection with the matters to which we have to refer.

Another matter which I should like to touch upon is the fact that reference was made to a judicial tribunal. In this Act of 1921 anybody can be appointed. If a judge is appointed he is not appointed in a judicial capacity. He is appointed because he is a judge and because he is a person who is in the habit of hearing evidence and matters of that kind.

And assessing it.

And assessing it, as Deputy MacEntee, the lay lawyer, says. He is not there in a judicial capacity. It is a misnomer to refer to this as a judicial tribunal. I say also to those Deputies who are willing to be convinced that it would be quite wrong for this House to ask any judge to determine the standard of behaviour, because that is what is asked by Deputy Lemass, of any Deputy in this House.

That is not the function of the judges in the Constitution, in the previous Constitution and in the British Constitution. Judges are independent in the exercise of their functions. Parliament has its function under the constitutional system. All judges have their functions under the constitutional system. It would be quite wrong in my view, and I submit it to the House, to let any judge or judges interfere with our proceedings here or judge on our behaviour or on the standard of our behaviour. That would be allowing the judiciary to encroach on the functions of the legislature. We ought to be entitled to set our own standards and to see that they are obeyed. That is what I am asking. I am asking Deputies to say that they will be themselves able to judge and best able to judge whether a Deputy has crossed the line of propriety when speaking in this House.

I agree with Deputy Lemass in one thing that he said. Under the system that we have here under our Constitution, under the laws that existed before the Constitution, the privilege of a member of this Dáil, a member of Parliament in the British Parliament, was absolute. That did impose and does impose on every Deputy in this House an obligation to see that he does not outstep the bounds of propriety and decency. If he does, as I have already said and as I repeat again, the primary judge of that—whether the Deputy outstrips his duty or not—is the Ceann Comhairle. The ultimate judge is, or ought to be, this House. I ask those Deputies here who were referred to by Deputy Lemass, I ask every Deputy on this side of the House who ordinarily supports the Government to weigh what I have said here in his own interests. This constitutional privilege is a privilege of the Deputy but it is not his exclusive privilege. It is really the privilege of the public because it is the public interest that requires that utterances in Parliament should be privileged so that matters in a democratic country may properly be brought to light and public notice without the Executive being able to be silenced by an outside body, as Deputy Lemass would have it if this motion were carried. The utterances of a Deputy who is conscientiously doing his duty——

It is a different question altogether.

As it is, Deputy Lemass has stated that Deputies of this House cannot be trusted to do their duty conscientiously. Anybody, from any side of the House, who votes for Deputy Lemass insults himself and this House in doing so.

Mr. de Valera

I wonder if we can prove that we can examine these questions calmly by approaching this debate in a proper spirit. There is no doubt that the questions involved here are of tremendous importance. The Taoiseach is quite right, of course, in saying that it is essential that the Deputies of this House should be free, without being amenable to some outside authority, to express their opinions and to bring to the notice of this Assembly any materials facts which have been brought to their notice so that they might be publicly discussed. That is the purpose of the Articles of the Constitution quoted and it is of paramount importance.

In that connection I only wish to stress what both Deputy Lemass and the Taoiseach himself stressed, namely, that it does impose on every one of us here a very grave obligation. If we were all fully alive to that obligation on all occasions there would be no need for anything else but unfortunately we are not in this House, nor are the people in any other Parliament, either angels or saints. They are all human beings and, being human beings, they will not always be conscious of their obligations to their brother Deputies or brother members by keeping within the realms of truth or the realms of fair play. What we have here to do is to try—I suggested long ago that we should do it when there was no particular case before us —remembering that we are all human, to safeguard the rights of this Assembly, and the interests of the nation as far as this Assembly represennts them, with the sacred rights of the individual to his good name. A man's good name and character are important to him and I would say that it is of public importance that personal character should be safeguarded from unjust attack. It is our duty to see that whilst we are safeguarding the important right of being able to express ourselves freely here—without being made amendable to any court for our conduct and liable to its penalties —that we should at the same time have some procedure by which the rights of the individual are safeguarded.

I tried to get that question examined here in this House some time ago and the present members of the Government then in opposition opposed us. I wanted a Select Committee, consisting of members of both Houses, set up to go into this matter, examine it carefully and prescribe rules by which, if matters of this particular kind occurred, they would be investigated in accordance with the set of rules prescribed generally, not prescribed with any particular case in view. It is obvious that if done in that way we would do it properly and without prejudice. Whether he is aware of it or not, it seems to me that the Taoiseach is confusing two things.

I am not confusing anything.

Mr. de Valera

Perhaps the Taoiseach will have the patience to wait, to listen to what I am suggesting. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the Taoiseach is wrong.

Can you guess who is confused?

Do not be a sulky boy.

Mr. de Valera

People who are just as intelligent as the Taoiseach have occasionally confused matters, and regarded as the same things which were different, and have not distinguished between like things to the extent they should. Perhaps I am wrong and, if I am wrong, I am quite ready to listen to anybody who may wish to point out where I am wrong. The Taoiseach has stated in express terms, if I remember them correctly, that to have facts examined, as was suggested here in this motion, by a judicial tribunal—to find whether the statements were true or not—would be making members of this House amenable to an outside body. That is not my view. When the tribunals, which were set up here before, were being set up it was clearly understood that they were simply impartial fact-finding bodies. The question of the action to be taken on the facts as found by these bodies was necessarily left to this House. As I say, I may think differently from the Taoiseach in this matter and perhaps if it were wholly examined some flaw might be found in my argument. I am quite willing to listen to objections to it. However, I am anxious, and I believe all the members of this House are anxious, that there should be some impartial body to find out the facts.

If we have not such an impartial body to find out the facts nobody will believe the findings. It is all very well for the Taoiseach to say that we are insulting each other by saying that we would be affected or biased by our political views and political prejudices. That is a very fine attitude to take but does he really and fundamentally think it is so? Put himself here on these benches and us opposite. He would be one of the Deputies who would resent very much our suggesting that if there was a body set up with a majority on our side and a minority on his that, in examining the case we have here, the members of it would find impartially and would act quite irrespective of their political prejudices or political bias. We are not angels and we are not saints as I have said.

Hear, hear.

Deputy Sweetman took the Chair.

Mr. de Valera

That is true. We have to recognise that we are human beings with all the limitations, temptations, prejudices and all the rest of it of human beings. If we want to act fairly between man and man we have to try and see that we have not a packed jury on either side. I have been trying to get an impartial fact-finding body. I have examined that matter with an open mind, not in connection with this case or any special case but generally, and the only thing that I could see against a judicial tribunal was that if the tribunal asked some member of the House to give evidence, and if the member did not want to give evidence, he could refuse. That atittude was taken up by colleagues of the present Taoiseach at the Locke Tribunal. My own view was that the nature of the allegations were such that they could have given evidence, but I understood the position. In any case I understood that they said to themselves "Look here, this is an encroachment on certain of our rights and we will not give evidence." That might appear perhaps to put them in a wrong position.

If I am given confidential information which I believe to be true, and if I believe that the only way in which I can bring the matter up for consideration is by safeguarding the individual who gave the information, then quite apart altogether from whether he was right or wrong, I would feel that if he gave the information in confidence that I would have to protect that confidence. If I was brought before a tribunal and asked to say who it was gave me the information, and if I got that information as a Deputy to enable me to perform my public duties as a Deputy, I would go to jail rather than reveal what was confidential and I would feel that I was right in doing so.

But the question is this: is there no way in which we can act fairly by one another and prevent one another from being slandered? Obviously, every Deputy must know that the privilege of immunity here is capable of the grossest and meanest abuse. In my judgment, and I cannot go beyond that, it has been abused in this House more than once. It has indeed been despicably abused in this House more than once. When we were the Government I was anxious to secure that there would be an examination of the whole matter with regard to the rights and privileges of members of this House in general, examined impartially in a calm atmosphere, not in an atmosphere where there was an accuser or an accused or anything of that sort —there is a special case being considered here now—but examined coldly and calmly from the point of view of what was best in the public interest as regards the privileges of this House and what was best in the public interest so far as safeguarding individuals from being grossly slandered. Is there no way of doing that? As far as I was ever able to discover and the only solution that I could suggest was the setting up of an independent fact-finding judicial tribunal composed of people accustomed to examine facts and sift allegations to see whether they were based really on a sound and justified basis or not—to examine these and bring in a report of their findings. If then any judgment was to be passed on these, if there was to be any punishment or any further action taken, that would have to be taken by this House, to which alone they would then be amenable.

I would ask the Taoiseach not to close his mind on this matter. It is a very serious matter for individuals and very serious for a Government. For instance, if there are charges made against the Government of the same type that were made when we were over there, how are they going to defend themselves? Is the Taoiseach going to tell me—if there was a case like the Locke Distillery case— that, if some such things were alleged against them as a Government, that he can get public confidence by having a committee set up here consisting of members of the House on which the Government had a majority? What would happen is that it would be said that one side was trying to hide and cover up the matter. We deliberately chose a judicial tribunal as the only adequate tribunal and I am as keen on protecting Parliamentary rights as anybody else. We chose a judicial tribunal as the only way in which the matter had a chance of being examined judicially and impartially, and as the only way in which public confidence could be got in regard to the findings.

I suggest to the Taoiseach that he may be very wrong about this. There was a case recently in Britain where they had a judicial tribunal.

That had not any reference to any utterances in Parliament.

Mr. de Valera

It had reference to the conduct of Ministers and public servants amenable to Parliament.

Outside of Parliament.

Mr. de Valera

In Parliament or out of Parliament. There a very long tradition has been established over a period of centuries and because of that it is quite possible that you can get things done that you will not get done where a long tradition has not established a definite standard and practice. I urge the Taoiseach very strongly to re-examine this question and that, if he votes against this motion, if there is a majority against it, that he will not leave this matter in the way in which it will then be left. I assure him that it would be a serious matter for a Government if, at some particular stage, something were to arise in which he would want to defend the Government against unjust attack. The only way in which the Government can be defended is by having an independent outside body to determine the facts, leaving the judgment on the findings to this House. It will then be for the House to say what punishment there will be, if there is to be punishment, or what further action is to be taken.

My appeal to every member is not to take this as a light matter. I ask them not to take this as a matter simply between the Minister for Agriculture and a Deputy of the Opposition. I ask them to take it in this way, that members have the right to be defended against slander, and the possibility of gross slander, particularly by people whose word is going to make the slander serious as when a Minister of State makes a charge against a private Deputy. When a Minister in regard to his own Department makes a charge and suggests misconduct by a Deputy it is more likely to be believed, because it will be thought that the Minister has got material through his Departmental information, material which enables him honestly to come to a judgment and make the charge.

I regret that this whole matter should come up in regard to a particular case. When we were the Government I tried to have this examined independently and separately because of its very great importance, the duty of safeguarding, on the one hand, the rights of Parliament and, on the other, the rights of individuals—of saving individuals from abuse of those Parliamentary privileges. I am going to vote in favour of the motion because I believe that, of the two, what has to be safeguarded in this case is the right of the private Deputy, and that the right of Parliament is sufficiently safeguarded by the fact that it is the Parliament itself that must ultimately take its decision. No tribunal that you can set up can do that. All that it can do is to present the facts, and any judgment that has to be taken afterwards will be taken by the Dáil. That preserves the rights of the Dáil.

With regard to this proposal, the point of principle referred to by the Taoiseach is fundamental. It arose, for the first time in my experience, in connection with the tribunal set up to investigate certain matters arising out of a letter addressed to the then Taoiseach when the exceptional and indeed, questionable procedure of setting up a judicial tribunal was determined on by the Government to investigate certain matters mentioned in that letter. In the course of their inquiry, the members of the commission sought the assistance of members of this House, and mentioned that they desired to inform themselves of the background of certain statements made by members of the House.

In the course of the proceedings it was clearly laid down by the Ceann Comhairle of this House that no such body, although constituted by the authority of Dáil Éireann, had the right to require a member of this House to answer before it for anything that transpired in the course of our proceedings. Any concession on this point of principle would, in my opinion, ultimately destroy the foundation of individual liberty in a democratic country. That is an absolute and unqualified Parliamentary privilege and I will be no party to any infringement, great or small, of this principle.

In this connection it is noteworthy and relevant to direct the attention of the House to the familiar procedure employed by the Cominform in the destruction of Parliamentary institutions in Eastern European democracies. The initial step in the destruction of Parliaments always has been to deprive an individual Deputy of his Parliamentary privilege and thereafter to operate whatever particular device the Communists have in their minds for his elimination.

The initial step here is to slander him.

I do not suggest, nor can anyone rationally suggest, that the Deputies responsible for this motion are inspired by the example——

Mr. Boland

On a point of order. What is the Minister quoting from? He is reading a document.

Oh, no, I am referring to a copious note, and so copious is it that I am in the position to reaffirm what I have just said. I do not suggest, nor can anyone rationally suggest, that the Deputies responsible for this motion are inspired by the example of the incidents here referred to, but they have clearly overlooked the dangers attendant on the new principle they propose to erect. If the motion envisages a Committee of this House, no evil principle is involved and, in fact, no matter of principle would arise at all and it would be merely a matter of expediency for this House to decide as to whether the motion should be adopted or not.

In the event of this motion being presented in a form which calls for a sub-committee of this House, my only comment on it must be that it is manifestly absurd for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to meet and pass a resolution at its first meeting to the effect that it was decided to set up a tribunal or a committee to investigate something, and then to adjourn for two months without having determined what it was that the tribunal it had set up was to determine, and then solemnly to reassemble two months later and apply their minds to the question of what it was that the tribunal which they had set up was to proceed to investigate. That is what the Committee on Procedure and Privileges did.

It was the Government that insisted on the adjournment in spite of our protests.

The Committee on Procedure and Privileges met last December and they took a decision that a judicial tribunal should be set up. They then adjourned. Two months later they solemnly reassembled to determine what it was this judicial tribunal should proceed to inquire into. Now, I think that that must suggest to Deputies of this House that the members of the Committee must have allowed something to obscure their judgment if they were solemnly resolved to set up a tribunal for the purpose of inquiring into something, nobody quite knew what. The records of the House are clear and categorical. The facts are that a quantity of lime, which was admittedly a fertiliser of value——

Are we going to go into the case in detail?

No, I do not want even to try to. As I said a quantity of lime lay in the factory of Comhlucht Siuicre Éireann at Tuam. Growers in that area had been urged by the sugar company to accept it, provided they would arrange to carry it away. An agitation took place in the area for the granting of a subsidy on this lime, to which members of the Beet Growers' Association contributed. Little or none of the lime was, in fact, taken by the growers in that area. Subsequently, at a meeting attended by one or more of the directors of the sugar company——

On a point of order. Are we, on this motion, entitled to deal with the facts, or the alleged facts, in this case?

Certainly.

Surely it is an abuse of the rules of the House?

I submit I am at least entitled to inquire what it is this motion suggests should be inquired into.

I think the Minister is in order so far.

At a meeting attended by one or more of the directors of the sugar company, and the general manager of the sugar company——

On a point of order. The Ceann Comhairle definitely ruled that it was out of order to discuss the merits of what the Minister for Agriculture alleged against Deputy Corry or what Deputy Corry said about the Minister for Agriculture.

That is incorrect; he ruled no such thing.

I have not the slightest desire to comment on the merits of anything.

On a point of order.

The Deputy is getting agitated.

I am not a bit anxious, but on a point of order I should like to know, if the Minister can refer now to any discussion between the directors of the sugar company and somebody else, why was he not prepared to answer the question put down by Deputy Thomas Walsh?

Acting-Chairman

That does not seem to me to be a point of order.

He should have replied to that question.

I can be prevented from speaking, but I do not think it is going to serve any legitimate interest of the House or of anybody to prevent me speaking.

Deputy Corry should get a chance to speak.

Deputy Corry, who was then Chairman of the Beet Growers' Association, and some other members of the Beet Growers' Association——

We are now fully discussing the whole thing which we are trying to set up a tribunal to decide.

In the course of a general conversation——

The slanderer is now giving evidence.

It was mentioned that there was a large quantity of lime.

I submit again that the Minister for Agriculture is exceeding the rules of the debate as laid down by the Ceann Comhairle in this matter.

If the Deputy would wait a moment. There cannot be anything controversial in anything I am about to say.

You are slandering Deputy Corry again and that is the question the judicial tribunal was to try.

That is why the Chair is there.

There was a quantity of lime in the factory and in the course of conversation——

Acting-Chairman

Deputy Corry must withdraw that remark against the Chair.

No—do not, Corry— leave.

Acting-Chairman

He said that was why the Chair was there. That is a reflection against the Chair.

Mr. Boland

Why is the Ceann Comhairle not here for an important debate of this kind.

I submit that the Ceann Comhairle—(interruptions).

Acting-Chairman

The Deputy is not the occupant of the Chair.

The Ceann Comhairle took the Chair.

The Deputy withdraws it.

On a point of order——

On a point of order, I want to state that in your absence the Minister for Agriculture was proceeding to discuss the quantity of lime in Galway, in whose possession it was and how it was distributed and what he heard in relation to the purchase and distribution of that lime. I submit to you that you ruled when Deputy Lemass opened this debate that it was not in order to go into the allegation which the Minister for Agriculture made against Deputy Corry, nor was it in order for members on this side of the House to bring forward any evidence here to refute these charges.

That is a very long point of order.

On a point of order, just before you took the Chair the Acting Chairman asked Deputy Corry to withdraw a statement.

And in my hearing Deputy Corry withdrew it.

When the Chair said that Deputy MacEntee turned round and said: "Do not, Corry, leave." I submit, with respect, that that was a disorderly statement made by Deputy MacEntee.

It should have been raised then.

I was raising it when the Chair was changing. It was not my fault.

You are hopping up and down like a jack-in-the-box.

A matter was referred to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges by the Chair because he believed that there was at least an implied reflection on the probity of Deputy Corry in the statements made by the Minister. A repetition of those statements would, in my opinion, be repeating what I consider to be a charge against Deputy Corry and would not be in order.

Does the Chair rule on the point I have raised that a Deputy in this House made a remark to another Deputy after he had been called on to withdraw—"Do not—leave the House."

The remark was not made in my hearing.

It was made.

Who is taking your word for anything?

The propriety——

If Deputy MacEntee wants to be disorderly in such fashion I am not responsible.

Points of order can be disorderly.

The propriety of this transaction is, I suppose, a matter of personal opinion. I hold that where an individual accepts a position such as that of chairman of the Beet Growers' Association——

On a point of order, the Deputy is repeating the allegation that he made here and refused to withdraw.

And he is referring now to Deputy Corry's position as chairman of the Beet Growers' Association and going into the merits of the case.

Leave him alone.

I make no allegation at all.

Mr. Boland

He has it all written down, what is more.

The Minister has referred to the impropriety of the action of Deputy Corry.

I said the impropriety of that is a matter of personal opinion. If you think that goes beyond the limits I gladly withdraw. I am trying to make this point; every man is entitled to his opinion and there is no tribunal in the world which has the right to deny to any free man that opinion. They have a right to deter him from alleging evil or wrong. But, surely, there is a distinction between that and what I am trying to lay before the House. It is becoming pretty difficult to get laying anything before the House in the present mood of the Deputies opposite. I make the case that it is a matter of opinion whether a person who voluntarily accepts the position of a quasi-trustee does not thereby deprive himself by accepting such an office of the same freedom of action that a person who does not undertake duties of a quasi-trustee might reasonably claim for himself.

The Minister is suggesting that the Deputy acted with impropriety in certain circumstances. Repeating the charge would, I consider, be at least an implied charge made and I wanted that implied charge referred to a committee.

He has repeated it three times.

If that is your view, Sir, I shall pass from that. What the real issue is here for inquiry by any commission or tribunal I have yet to hear anybody define.

On a point of order, I suggest that remark exceeds the lines you laid down because we were not allowed to canvass or discuss what material there was to refer to the tribunal.

It is a most astonishing thing in my opinion if a tribunal is to be set up to inquire into nobody knows what. Now, I hold the view strongly that if this House heard Deputy Corry get up and read out the words that he felt reflected on his honour, that this House, acting on Deputy Corry's request, should be prepared to say: "If the words you have read out are conceivably capable of the meaning that you have drawn from them and you have, in fact, drawn that meaning alone, the House feels you are entitled to get your committee of inquiry."

Even when the majority of the House might feel that this was carrying delicacy of feeling beyond the limits of reason, if a Deputy says of a paragraph, or paragraphs: "These words are in my judgment a reflection on my personal integrity and, unless the Deputy who has used these words is prepared to withdraw, I ask that a Committee of this House be set up with the right to declare authoritatively whether my resentment is justified or unjustified," I think he ought to get that inquiry. I have no delicacy on that subject at all. But on the point of principle raised by the Taoiseach, no matter what misrepresentations that might leave me open to, I am quite convinced the Taoiseach is right and I support that principle at whatever cost it may involve me in.

The Locke Tribunal did not want to hear you at all but you insisted on making a speech to them.

As I said before, the first time the procedure of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges was ever invoked, the Ceann Comhairle of this House laid down that nobody outside Dáil Éireann could acquire the right from any source to require a Deputy in this House to answer for what had taken place in this House.

The Locke Tribunal did not stop you talking to it.

If a proposal is made for a special committee in this House I shall welcome it. If a proposal is made for a tribunal constituted from persons other than members of this House, whatever the cost, I shall resist it. If it is set up, I shall not appear before it.

You will not be asked.

If it seeks to require me or any other Deputy to answer before it for anything that was said or done in Dáil Éireann I shall not answer, but if this house sets up a Committee of itself——

You went to the Locke Committee.

——and if that Committee consists even as to three-quarters of members of the Opposition and one-quarter Deputies drawn from this side, I shall gladly collaborate in its proceedings. Rancorous as politics may be in this country, I have not so low an opinion of any man or woman, whom our people choose to represent them, as to believe that they would betray their trust, just for the purpose of venting a vicious political spleen on one individual.

Mr. de Valera

They have some spendid examples.

Go and read your speeches for examples of political spleen.

If there is anything unbecoming in it, I am at fault. I have considered this fully and most carefully and the position I here adopt is the result of careful reflection and resolved decision. If it is wrong, there can be no extenuation. If it is right, I am glad to have had an opportunity of stating it in public.

When the Taoiseach was speaking he said that we were endeavouring to create a precedent here. I admit there is a precedent being created inasmuch as this is the first time in my recollection since the Dáil was set up—and I have been here 22 years now—on which it was left to the Opposition to move that a report of the Committee of Procedure and Privileges and its recommendations should be adopted by this House. There is certainly a precedent there. I do not remember, in fact, any occasion on which there was even a division on a report of the Committee. The Committee was set up at a very early stage in the history of this Dáil; it was part of the machinery of the Dáil and it served a very useful purpose. You, Sir, were not in the House when the Minister for Agriculture commenced his speech, but he devoted about five minutes to commenting on the way in which we did our business at that Committee. I do not know from what source he got his information, but I can assure you that if you were present you would not have allowed him to proceed along the lines he adopted. He ridiculed the manner in which we did our business and he said that we had come to a decision on the first occasion and that then we had adjourned for two months.

I can remember one occasion before when there was nearly being a division on a report of this Committee. It was a question of whether we should curtail the length of time allowed for private members' business. The matter was almost put to a division but I intervened and suggested that we should not divide on a report from that Committee, that though their recommendations were not what we thought they should be, we should not turn them down but refer the report back. We were in a majority in the House on that occasion and we could have carried our views in regard to the report but I was anxious that we should not create a precedent by dividing on the report of the Committee. This Committee is an organ of this House and is set up as being representative of all Parties in this House. When I first joined it in 1927 there were only 11 members on the Committee. That was because there were not so many members then in the House, but when new Parties came along, the number of members was extended to 15, so that the smallest Party could be represented. I think the first time that any exception was taken to a report of that Committee was when Deputy Dillon himself was a member of it. He apparently had been voted down at the committee. Though the members may differ politically, every point of view is considered at the committee. Members may have a variety of views but still we accept the decision of the majority. Deputy Dillon, having been a member on that occasion came in here, and objected to a decision to which a majority of his colleagues had agreed. This is the first occasion on which it was proposed to upset the recommendations of this Committee.

I do not propose to go into the merits of this case. I quite agree that your ruling, Sir, was correct and that the merits of the matter should not be discussed here. I would agree with the Taoiseach, too, if it were a question of making anybody amenable for anything said in the House, but this Committee having carefully considered the matter, first on the night the Dáil adjourned, came to the conclusion that the proper way by which the facts could be ascertained was by setting up an outside judicial tribunal. The Taoiseach said that, if he wanted to do so, he could set up a tribunal which would give the verdict he would want. I do not know if, when he was speaking in that way, he was thinking of some Party hacks who might be selected as judges but, surely if he had any ordinary judge there, he is not going to get any verdict he wishes. It was certainly a very queer statement from an eminent member of the Bar, a very curious statement indeed.

It is a serious thing for one Deputy to accuse another Deputy of corrupt practices, but I submit it is far more serious, as the Leader of our Party has said, when the charge is made by a Minister, because the assumption in the minds of the outside public is that the Minister is acting on information which is correct, that he knows exactly that what he is saying is right and it carries naturally more weight than a remark passed by one Deputy about another in the ordinary course of debate. We were reminded last night by the Minister for Justice that the Government is a corporate body and that, when a Minister spoke, he spoke for the whole Government.

I do not see how this Government can do that because Ministers are speaking with different voices. Nevertheless, what I am saying is that when an ordinary private Deputy makes a charge against another Deputy, he is speaking only for himself; but if we are going to accept the contention of the Minister for Justice, that when a Minister makes a statement he is making that statement as a member of a corporate body and speaking for the whole Government, then we have to admit that it is a far more serious thing for the person who is attacked, when a statement is made by a Minister attacking him. For that reason the Deputy who is attacked is entitled to have his case fully inquired into. What the Committee was required to do was to have the facts considered and a report made as to whether there was any foundation for the allegation made by the Minister for Agriculture. They felt, after having considered the matter on two occasions, that the best and most fitting body to decide that question was a judicial tribunal. I do not think that the precedent should have been created for the first time in the history of the Dáil that the adoption of a report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges should have had to be moved by a member of the Opposition.

I was not intending to intervene in this Debate but in view of the statement made by the Minister for Agriculture and in view of the attitude of the Government in this matter I wish to place two documents on record in this House. The first one is a receipt:—

"Sixteen tons of dried lime ex Tuam, £16. Freight on same, £13 8s. 0d."

That is the receipt for the lime which I am charged with getting for nothing. The other document is the reason why. This is a copy of a letter sent by the general manager of the sugar coming pany to the manager of the Mallow Sugar Beet Factory:—

"Dear Sir:—

The manager at Tuam has got a very disappointing response to the offer of dried factory lime. He expects to sell only about 80 tons and he will be able to manufacture about 500 tons.

Will you, therefore, endeavour to place 400 tons with your beet growers?

Some time ago the Cork County Committee of Agriculture asked to have some for experimental purposes, and I should be obliged if you would contact the officials of that body and arrange for the necessary supply from Tuam.

The price will be the same as last year, namely, £1 per ton, f.o.r. Tuam; deposit on bags, 2/6, returnable.

Yours faithfully,

M.J. Costello,

General Manager."

It was because a copy of that letter was sent from Mr. Costello to the members of the Council of the Beet Growers' Association that I took this lime as an experiment. I am not concerned with the conscience of the Minister for Agriculture. That is his own business. There is no doubt that, more than any other Deputy in this House, I have always had the manners when I found I was wrong to stand up afterwards and withdraw and say I was sorry. I always had that much manners. I am not a keeper of anybody else's conscience. I can quite understand the head of the firm of Monica Duff and Co., who were convicted of overcharging for bread, being on that job now.

The Deputy is out of order. He is going into personal abuse. The Deputy will sit down.

In which there is no scintilla of truth. It is just for the record.

As I realise that there is a time limit on this debate I shall not be very expansive. In my opinion the issues to be referred to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges were very clear and distinct, and I rather resent the fact that the Minister for Agriculture should impeach the order, the honesty and the intelligence of that Committee. That Committee represents all Parties in this House and they discussed this matter in a very cold, objective, and impartial way.

A decision was taken which I think should be accepted by this House. It is an unfortunate manner in which this matter has been brought to this House. If the Government were dissatisfied with the action of their Committee on Procedure and Privileges, they should have asked that Committee to reassemble and reconsider the whole matter. Instead of that, however, no action has been taken by the Government and the opposition Party have brought this matter before the House. It is a most unfortunate manner in which such an important question would be brought to this House. It is unfortunate, also, that the time for this discussion has been so limited, because the interests of Deputies are very seriously involved in this whole question. The interests of Independent Deputies such as myself would be seriously jeopardised if a judicial tribunal were set up. I believe, also, that the interests of every individual private Deputy are seriously jeopardised if it is possible for a Minister to make charges against an individual Deputy and to decline to withdraw them. You can destroy democracy completely when Ministers in authority have the power to hound out of public life any Deputy to whom they object by persistently attacking him and by refusing to withdraw the accusations. I think that attitude influenced the majority of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to urge the setting up of that impartial tribunal. I am prepared, on the merits of the question, to vote in favour of the motion. I think it is unfortunate that it has been presented in this manner. It is unfortunate that it was not tackled in an entirely different way but since it has come before the House, each individual Deputy must decide the question for himself on its merits according to his conscience. I have no hesitation in saying that, of all the evils presented to us, the best course to adopt is to let this tribunal take effect.

I want to make it clear that this tribunal must not be set up to inquire into the conduct of the Deputies in this House. It must not be set up to impose penalties on Deputies. It should be set up for the purpose of finding out whether the charges against Deputy Corry were true or otherwise. I think a judicial tribunal confined to that narrow scope cannot in any way endanger the privileges of Deputies of this House.

The Minister for External Affairs rose.

I protest against the intervention of Ministers and ex-Ministers and the two parties to this controversy.

I am prepared to hear Deputy Connolly for five minutes.

There is no consideration for the private member about whose rights and privileges we have heard so much. He is to get no opportunity of speaking.

The lawyers have to get their turn.

I want to join with Deputy Connolly in making a protest——

I do not understand exactly what the protest is.

The protest is against——

When the Chair is speaking, nobody else speaks. That is the general rule. Surely, when a motion is introduced, the proposer and seconder of the motion have the right to speak. The opposite side also have the right to speak. Only four or five have spoken. I cannot limit the duration of speeches, but is it suggested that a back-bencher should be called in preference to a Minister or the proposer and seconder of the motion?

That is not the objection. The objection is to the limitation of the time. There should have been agreement by both sides as to the time for the debate.

There was agreement by both sides—the Government and the opposition side.

They had very little regard for the rights of the private member.

Mr. de Valera

We are quite prepared to agree to an extension of the time.

I do not know whether the time can be extended, but I think that on a motion like this, in which the rights of each individual Deputy are concerned, we could very well have done without the contributions of the two parties involved—the Minister for Agriculture and Deputy Corry.

Is it not possible for the House to continue the debate until 10.30 p.m., by agreement?

There is a debate on the adjournment and there must be unanimous agreement.

The amount of time allowed was what the Government were prepared to allow for the discussion.

It was agreed on.

I do not think we should allow that statement to pass, as it is a statement which is capable of being misunderstood.

If the Deputy thinks I am wrong, I am wrong. I was informed that there was agreement on two hours. That can be interpreted any way the Deputy likes.

We were compelled to take two hours.

I was informed that it was agreed. The Chair can never be right, in some people's opinion.

I did not intend that to be a reflection on the Chair and I wish to make that quite clear.

Can we not continue until 10.30 p.m.?

Not without the agreement of the House.

I understand the position is that Deputy Byrne has your permission, Sir, to raise a matter on the Adjournment.

If somebody qualified to speak for Deputy Byrne would indicate that he was prepared not to press his claim in the matter, would you, Sir, permit the discussion to continue until 10.30?

If the House agrees unanimously, yes.

I think the House will agree that the matter Deputy Byrne desires to raise is a matter of urgent public importance.

Very good; that finishes it.

I am sorry that I should have delayed the House for even three or four minutes, but I do not often really trouble the House, nor do I often ask the House to listen to me; but, after all, a Minister has also the right to speak in the House. The net issue which the House has to decide is not whether the Minister for Agriculture was right or whether Deputy Corry was right. The only issue to be decided is whether that question is to be determined by a judicial inquiry or by a Committee of the House.

A Committee of the House has already reported.

The Government has already offered to agree to a Committee of the House. If the members on the Opposition Benches examine the position, they will realise that, under the Constitution, you could not refer this question to an outside body.

That is wrong.

Mr. de Valera

Why not?

It is rubbish.

With great respect to Deputy MacEntee, I also know something about constitutional law, as I think Deputy MacEntee has learned from time to time. Article 15 of the Constitution is quite specific. It lays down that the members shall not, in respect of any utterance in either House, be amenable to any court or any authority other than the House itself.

That is not what is proposed. What is proposed is that Deputy Corry should answer for his actions outside the House.

The proposal before the House, in so far as there is a proposal at all, is that a tribunal of inquiry should be set up to investigate utterances made inside this House and not outside this House.

No, the charge against Deputy Corry.

I think it would be much better if the House, instead of spending two hours in discussing the form of tribunal that should be set up in such matters, made a resolve that it would in future avoid every utterance and discussion of this kind.

It was slander.

I know what slander is. Long before I was a member of this House, against the rules of this House, I was slandered repeatedly by members on the other side——

You did a blit of slander yourself. There is nobody better able to do it than you.

For discharging my professional duties. My one appeal to the House would be that they should adopt henceforth a different attitude in the debates.

Shouting down in the House is not argument.

Many of the criticisms which Deputies opposite could often make against the Government are destroyed by their own overstatements and personal abuse.

All I want to say, in relation to the arguments used, is that there is, in my view, a very considerable difference between allegations made in the course of a debate by a Deputy and allegations made against a Deputy by a member of the Executive. I think that all the speech delivered here by the Taoiseach was a sidestepping of the main issue. If a Deputy is slandered by a Minister in his personal character, is it fair to that Deputy to offer him, as the only redress, investigation by a Committee of the Dáil, upon which the Minister's Party will have a majority? I hold that it is not.

I hold that there is no precedent for the incident which arose here, and which occasioned this debate. On the occasion of the inquiry to which the Taoiseach referred, concerning a mining lease in County Wicklow, allegations were made against the Government by Deputy McGilligan, and the Government agreed to a Committee of the Dáil upon which the Opposition Party had a majority, and of which an Opposition Deputy, the present Tánaiste, was chairman. That Committee, as I am sure the Tánaiste will agree, imposed tremendous labours upon its members. It ran its tedious course over six months and it was difficult to hold it down to the particular matter it was supposed to be investigating. In fact, my experience of that Committee was such that, when on later occasions other allegations, equally groundless, were made, I personally argued in favour of inquiry by a judicial body outside the House. I did so although the particular tribunal to which the Taoiseach referred produced, as he said, a unanimous report to the effect that there was no foundation for the allegations it was investigating.

There is no valid basis of comparison, however, between that incident and an incident which involves allegations against a Deputy and persons outside the House by a Minister. As was pointed out, a Minister is presummed to have access to information which ordinary people have not got, and when, therefore, a Minister makes a statement, he is supposed to make it out of knowledge. In this case, an allegation was made against a Deputy, and it is unfair and unjust to offer that Deputy, as the only possible means of redress, investigation by a partisan committee, a committee with a partisan majority.

If there was any real desire to protect the rights of Deputies and the rights of Deputies against Ministers, which is the most important thing of all, there would be agreement in this particular instance that the facts should be ascertained by a judicial body and submitted by that body to the House.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 64; Níl, 72.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Blaney, Neal T.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Bourke, Dan.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Brennan, Thomas.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Buckley, Seán.
  • Burke, Patrick.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Kennedy, Michael J.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kilroy, James.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Kitt, Michael F.
  • Lahiffe, Robert.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Lydon, Michael F.
  • Lynch, John.
  • McCann, John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • McGrath, Patrick.
  • Maguire, Patrick J.
  • Butler, Bernard.
  • Carter, Thomas.
  • Childers, Erskine H.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Colley, Harry.
  • Collins, James J.
  • Corry, Martin J.
  • Crowley, Honor Mary.
  • Davern, Michael J.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • De Valera, Vivion.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Friel, John.
  • Gilbride, Eugene.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Moran, Michael
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • O'Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Ormonde, John.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • Rice, Bridget M.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Mary B.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Walsh, Thomas.

Níl

  • Beirne, John.
  • Belton, John.
  • Blowick, Joseph.
  • Brennan, Joseph P.
  • Browne, Noel. C.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Byrne, Alfred Patrick.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Collins, Seán.
  • Commons, Bernard.
  • Connolly, Roderick J.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Costello, John A.
  • Cowan, Peadar.
  • Crotty, Patrick J.
  • Davin, William.
  • Desmond, Daniel.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Maurice E.
  • Donnellar, Michael.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Dunne, Seán.
  • Esmonde, Sir John L.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Finucane, Patrick.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Halliden, Patrick J.
  • Hogan, Patrick.
  • Hughes, Joseph.
  • Keane, Seán.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Kinane, Patrick.
  • Kyne, Thomas A.
  • Larkin, James.
  • Lehane, Con.
  • Lehane, Patrick D.
  • McAuliffe, Patrick.
  • MacBride, Seán.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • MacFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • McQuillan, John.
  • Madden, David J.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, Timothy J.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Gorman, Patrick J.
  • O'Higgins, Michael J.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F. (Jun.)
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Martin.
  • Palmer, Patrick W.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Redmond, Bridget M.
  • Reidy, James.
  • Reynolds, Mary.
  • Roddy, Joseph.
  • Rooney, Eamonn.
  • Sheehan, Michael.
  • Sheldon, William A. W.
  • Sweetman, Gerard.
  • Timoney, John J.
  • Tully, John.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Kissane and Kennedy; Níl: Deputies Doyle and Keyes.
Question declared negatived.
Deputy Halliden took the Chair.