It is repeated there that I kept that letter for one month, apparently for some purpose, the nature of which is not indicated, but presumably for some sinister purpose of my own. I want to say something now that I am very reluctant to say— that I had, on a previous occasion, successfully stood between the Minister for Health and some little trouble he had got into of which nobody knew, not even my Cabinet colleagues, and I thought I would be able to render the same service on this occasion. That was the reason impelling every action I took concerning the subject matter of the allegations which are now made against me.
The fact is that that letter was read to me on the 12th October; the very same letter, was read to Dr. Browne by the Archbishop in his house in Drumcondra on the 11th October. His Grace then went to Rome and on his return from Rome he called on me in my office in Government Buildings and personally handed me this letter. He carried out the duty imposed on him by the Hierarchy and delivered that letter to me. That was done on the 7th November. Dr. Browne admits in his document to-day that he got that letter on the 9th, or about the 9th November. I believe I gave it to him next day, but whether it was the next day or the day after, not more than two days had elapsed from the time the letter was given to me. There is then this allegation that I kept the letter for a month. Again I ask Deputies to test the genuineness of the charges made against me in these matters by these statements. That is the only way you can test matters, where the recollection of different parties is involved.
I told Dr. Browne when I saw him that the Archbishop had assured me of one or two things. He assured me that the deputation from the Irish Hierarchy met him in courtesy and in order that there should be no suggestion that they were dealing harshly with Dr. Browne, going beyond their functions or interfering in the political affairs of the country in any way, and so that this matter could be dealt with quietly and privately to see if an adjustment could be arrived at. He told me himself that he had dealt as kindly and as gently as he could with Dr. Browne and had brought him into his own private room, before he met the other two members of the Hierarchy, in order to assure him of his kindliness and interest in him, and to assure him that what the Bishops were doing was in his own interest.
I told Dr. Browne that His Grace of Dublin was actuated by nothing but the kindliest motives. I then told him also that the Archbishop had told me that the Irish Hierarchy's interest in this question was, in no remotest possible way, as a matter of politics or as a matter of personal opinion, that their sole interest in this question was as a matter of faith and morals. Nothing else was in question. They were not interested as citizens. They were not interested even as priests, though they as priests and bishops were charged with the duty of safeguarding the faith and morals of the Catholic people of this country. I told Dr. Browne that he could rely on His Grace to do everything to settle the matter quietly, and I then offered him my personal help and support and told him that the Archbishop had given me authority to adjust this matter in any way that was possible. I asked Dr. Browne would he give me that authority and he said he would and he did give me authority. I believe I told him on that occasion— although I am obliged to rely on my recollection for this—I am convinced looking back on it now that my recollection of this matter is right—that I was not going to answer that letter for the present. I took the letter away. I believe it was on that occasion or subsequently I gave him a copy of the letter of the Hierarchy to Deputy de Valera of the 7th October, 1947. I also told him that I thought that some of the points to which objection had been taken could easily be set right.
As an instance of what could be done, I referred him to Section 21 of the Health Act of 1947. The final words of the first part of the section—I have not got it before me but I think I am giving a correct quotation—are "and for their education in that respect". I suggested that he could put a clause into the Health Bill providing for the repeal of those offending words and that that would go some distance along the lines of meeting the objections. I also asked him to consider whether there was any other fact or matter in the letter to Deputy de Valera which had not been covered by us in the Bill, to get advice and to see that any such matter would be attended to in the amending Bill. Having told him that their Lordships were only interested in matters of faith and morals and not in other matters, and having asked for authority to stand between him and trouble, I am now accused of having corroborated his statement that there was nothing wrong. That is utterly and absolutely untrue, fantastically untrue.
I want to assure Deputies and decent people outside that at that time and until the time I was obliged to take a firm stand on the Wednesday of Holy Week, the 21st March, I was actuated by nothing but goodwill towards Dr. Browne, that I did everything, to the point of agony, to help him in his difficulties. No picture that I can present to the House, in words or otherwise, could tell what I and my colleagues the Tánaiste, Mr. Dillon and Dr. O'Higgins have gone through to settle this matter. We are now being accused of dilatoriness, and failure to tell the Hierarchy that Dr. Browne had an answer to their objections. I am accused of not sending his draft letter to the Hierarchy. The facts in connection with that are that, as I said, I gave the original letter of the Hierarchy to Dr. Browne. He took it away and I believe, to the best of my recollection, that on the same occasion he took away also a copy of the letter to Deputy de Valera. I understood that I then had authority from him to try to adjust this matter as I had adjusted another previous little trouble. Some time afterwards—I cannot recall the date; as I said, I have not got the habit of keeping memoranda or notes —he was in my office and he handed me a closed envelope. It was not sent to me but handed to me personally.
It was a closed envelope. He said:—
"That is the letter of the Hierarchy. I am returning it to you."
I thanked him for it and threw it on the table. When he was gone, I looked at it. He never said one single word to me to suggest that there was anything else in the envelope. I assumed that there was nothing in it but the original letter. He never said a single word that he was giving me a draft, or a suggested draft, or wanted me to do anything about it. When I opened the envelope, I found inside the document which he now says I should have transmitted to His Lordship the Bishop of Ferns, as his reply, merely as "a matter of record". I saw this letter and glanced through it. There was no covering letter with it, nor did he ask me to do anything about it. I assumed, as I think I was entitled to assume, and as I am sure any fair-minded Deputy will agree, that what was done was that some person, advising him, had drafted the suggested reply to the Hierarchy's letter, setting forth various answers to the objections, and incidentally, saying—using this extraordinary phrase:—
"I presume that the elimination of the means test could not be a factor which weighed with the Hierarchy in arriving at their opinion."
That was dodging the entire issue.
I left the letter there. It was one which, of course, I would not send. This was not a letter from him at all, as suggested by him in his statement to-day, when he used the words:—
"The objections in the letter appear to be those read to me by His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin during my interview on 11th October, and in the light of the later events I concluded that it had been transmitted solely for the purpose of record and formal reply,"
and went on to say—
"I, therefore, acting on this assumption prepared a draft letter for transmission by the Taoiseach to His Lordship the Bishop of Ferns in reply to the various points raised in their letter."
That was to be forwarded by me to the Hierarchy, a letter which started "My Lord Bishop" and ended up "I remain, my Lord Bishop, yours sincerely, —Taoiseach". I was to transmit this letter on his behalf, according to himself, to the Hierarchy, but it is obvious to anyone looking at it that it was a letter I could not send. It is clear to me that he or some of his advisers had prepared this as a suggested form of reply to the Hierarchy.
Now, having as I thought got authority from His Grace the Archbishop to adjust this matter, and having got authority from my colleague, the Minister for Health, to help him to have the matter adjusted and having told him that I was not going to send this letter for some time, to see if we could get an adjustment, I put it aside and locked it up as a private document. The suggestion now is, as it has been for some time, that Dr. Browne was gravely prejudiced and injured by that letter not being sent, and that that misled him into his subsequent career of launching this controversy and campaign against the medical profession. From then until the subsequent correspondence started in the letter of the 8th March this year, I never had a single word from him that the letter should be sent. I believe he knew that every effort I had made from that time until the Wednesday of Holy Week was an endeavour to have this matter adjusted in conformity with the moral law as indicated in the letter from the Hierarchy of the 10th October, 1950.
Every effort I made was bent in that direction. He makes the sorry debating point that I had been in constant touch with His Grace the Archbishop and that I had given three different reasons for not sending the letter. I was in close touch with His Grace the Archbishop, the representative of the Hierarchy, during all that time. I kept in constant touch with His Grace and gave him an account of the efforts we were making to try and adjust this unfortunate and very disedifying dispute between the Minister for Health and the medical profession. His Grace quite approved and agreed that it was better to try and do everything possible to have the matter adjusted. Whatever I did say to Dr. Browne and whatever I said in the letter to the Archbishop mean one and the same thing, that I delayed answering this letter with the full knowledge of the Archbishop of Dublin, representing the Irish Hierarchy, and with his concurrence, because I and my colleagues, particularly Mr. Dillon, Dr. O'Higgins, the Tánaiste and myself, were doing everything we could to avoid a disedifying and disreputable clash ensuing between the Minister for Health, because of his obstinacy, and the medical profession.
As this controversy grew we became still more anxious and more concerned. Finally, the plebiscite of the medical profession had been taken. They had decided by an overwhelming majority not to work the scheme. Dr. O'Higgins, who made herculean efforts in this controversy to save his colleague, the Minister for Health, persuaded the medical profession to let him intervene in the dispute, and they agreed.
Dr. O'Higgins then went to the Minister for Health and, with great difficulty, persuaded him to allow him to see the medical profession with a view to seeing if anything could be done to achieve a satisfactory solution of the difficulties. Fortunately for me, I took the precaution of bringing with me my friend and colleague, the Tánaiste, to that meeting. His support and help in this controversy, as in every other work that we have been doing over the last three and a half years, has been a source of unending strength to me and to the Government.
We met the medical profession on the 27th November, 1950. We had a long interview with them. May I say in passing that at this time I was under the impression that it was obligatory as a matter of law upon any Government, including my own, to have a free service for mothers and children under Part III of the Act. Before I went to this meeting I took the occasion to read the section as a lawyer, a thing I had not been doing for over three years, and I came to the conclusion that there was no binding obligation on this Government or any other Government to have a free scheme or this free-for-all and no means test under Part III of the Act. I was not my own adviser. It is a bad thing for any lawyer to act as his own adviser. I went in to act as an advocate on behalf of the then Minister for Health with the medical profession to see if we could get some scheme. I put forward his view as an advocate, a view with which I did not agree. I put it forward as strongly as ever I could and it is quoted against me now.
The former Minister for Health to-day read out a phrase from a letter that was subsequently circulated to the various members of the medical profession giving them an account of the interview with the Tánaiste and me. That interview lasted for three hours. It has been assumed that a free scheme meant what the former Minister for Health has been talking about, the free-for-all and no means test, and that you could not have a free scheme without a means test. It is quite clear that you could have any number of schemes under Part III of the Act. You can have a scheme without a means test, and one of the schemes that the Minister belatedly stated after all this hubbub he was prepared to compromise upon—a contributory scheme. You could have a contributory scheme which would be a free scheme. That was one of the things which we were going on to explore. That was not read out by the former Minister here to-day, nor did he read out what he knew perfectly well, my attitude in regard to the socialisation of medicine which I had stated to him specifically and which I stated to the College of Physicians, that I would not be a member of a Government or take part in any Government that was in favour of or tried in any way to socialise medicine. I stated that as my firm conviction and unbending principle and the former Minister knew that. I stated it to the doctors and it is on the face of this document.
The former Minister for Health in his statement to-day said that this document was submitted to me. I do not know where he got that statement. I am taking up all these small points to test his recollection. I did not see this document until circumstances arose which I shall explain in a moment. He said this document was submitted to me for my approval. I did not know of the document at all until some days after our meeting. The day after this meeting, Deputy Dr. Browne rang me up and repudiated me and the Tanáiste and said that we had acted treacherously towards him. He accused the Tanáiste and me of having sold him to the medical profession and said to me that they had gone cock-a-hoop down the country after the interview stating that the scheme was now dead, that they were satisfied it was dead. Both the Tanáiste and I told him specifically that that was incorrect and inaccurate. It is the same sort of allegation that has been made against us now that he made then—that we had given the medical profession to understand that this scheme was at an end, that we were going to kill it and therefore it was at an end. Naturally, the Tanáiste and I were somewhat put out by this allegation. Then he said that we were not to continue any longer the negotiations with the medical profession. After three hours with us, these gentlemen of the medical profession had undertaken to explore every possible suggestion to see whether they could find any means or formula which would satisfy the then Minister. He argued with them and, at the end, they expressed a very genuine desire to end the controversy.
I want to say here, and I shall repeat it before I sit down, that the medical profession have been maligned and slandered and libelled in every disreputable way throughout the entire period of this controversy and people outside have got the impression from propaganda that the medical profession have been standing between the people and this scheme. Every time there was any suggestion of an attempt to meet the then Minister for Health, to forget the past and the controversies, the people who said they were willing to come in and consult were the medical profession, and they were turned down every time with contumely by the then Minister. They acted the part which you would expect a noble profession to act in regard to this matter and the only thanks they have got is vilification. I feel it is my duty in this House to pay tribute to these men who have done everything they could to see that a mother-and-child scheme, a sane and legitimate scheme, to use the words used so properly in the bishop's letter, was brought about. I stated my conviction and faith and that I would not belong to any Government for one moment that was in favour of the socialisation of medicine. That was my conviction then and the former Minister for Health knew it, and it is my conviction now. I stated that and it appeared in the document. It was also stated—this was not referred to by the former Minister and I shall quote from the letter:
"The deputation pointed out that the association might favour a voluntary contributory scheme to overcome the difficulty and this suggestion seemed to interest Mr. Norton, who thought that the matter should be further explored. In this event he will be glad to provide any information at the disposal of his Department."
There is the very point made at that time in November last, the very point which the Minister stated in public he was now prepared to accept. That was turned down and we were accused of having been guilty of treachery and our authority to deal with the medical profession was withdrawn. We had arranged to see them the next week. They stated that they would see us at any time, any hour, any place, but we were repudiated and told not to go on with it.
Having heard this to my astonishment, I told Deputy Dr. O'Higgins to contact the medical profession. They were more astonished than I was and produced this document—that is how I got it—to justify the action I had taken and the way I had pleaded the case for the then Minister for Health before these people. It was never submitted to me. I got this document from Deputy Dr. O'Higgins and on his face it justifies me in every respect. Notwithstanding that, the then Minister for Health refused to allow the Tánaiste or me to conduct any further negotiations. I ask any fair-minded and honest Deputies, and the people outside, to judge the allegations made against the Tánaiste and myself and my other colleagues on that. The former Minister accused us of treachery and it was not until I was able to produce the document to him that confounded him and refuted the allegation he made against us that he rather reluctantly withdrew the allegation that he had made against me and the Tánaiste.
In spite of that, the Tánaiste continued to make efforts and Deputy Dr. O'Higgins made herculean efforts to settle the matter. I pass on to the 5th March. Perhaps I might say in passing —I think it appears in the correspondence—that the Standing Committee of the Hierarchy met in January. I saw the Archbishop and told him what had happened to our efforts to settle the matter, our desire to try to find some way out of this and the suggestions that had been put forward again and again by the medical profession in an effort to settle the dispute. They had put forward several suggestions, a contributory scheme, a Grant-in-Aid scheme, any number of schemes. They were all turned down by the then Minister. The Archbishop kindly undertook to convey to the Standing Committee of the Hierarchy the reason why the letter was still unanswered.
I want to say this and it will be corroborated by one of my colleagues. I do not think I mentioned the question of the reply to the then Minister for Health during all that period, because I was convinced that I told him I was not going to reply. I did say to him in recent months: "I have not yet replied to the Bishop's letter." In my recollection I said it to him twice, but he never said a word to me. He never suggested the horror that he subsequently suggested. I said to him: "Remember, I have not yet replied to that letter" on at least two occasions since last January. There is not a word about that. I do not recollect saying it to him between November and Christmas, but I certainly know that on two occasions since Christmas I made use of the expression: "I have not yet replied to that letter to the Archbishop." I am glad to say that that and other matters are corroborated by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs. After this interview between the Tánaiste and myself with the medical profession, the Minister for External Affairs spoke to his colleague, the Minister for Health, on this entire matter and repeated to him the necessity for satisfying the objections of the Hierarchy. I told my colleague, Mr. MacBride, Minister for External Affairs, what the situation was and I kept him fully informed as to how matters were progressing.
He will tell the House and, through the House, the public, of the interview he had with Deputy Dr. Browne before Christmas, just a few days subsequent to the interview we had with the medical profession; in that interview he pointed out the necessity for Deputy Dr. Browne meeting the objections of the Hierarchy. Deputy Dr. Browne never said to his colleague on that occasion: "I have sent the Taoiseach a draft reply." Neither did he say: "I have answered all the objections;" neither did he ask: "What are you talking about?" He reminded him of the Hierarchy's objections at the interview on 11th October and pressed him to take steps to meet those objections.
The next item of substance to which I must refer is one raised by the former Minister for Health, Deputy Dr. Browne, in his indictment to-day. On 8th March, 1951, my private secretary received from his private secretary two copies of a brochure relating to the mother and child scheme: "Mother and child—What the new service means to every family” is the title. The letter is as follows:
"Dr. Browne, Minister for Health, has asked me to enclose for the Taoiseach's information a copy of Mother and Child booklet explaining the principles of the mother and child service which he is about to introduce.”
That brochure was never sent to us as a Cabinet. That was the way in which we got that document—the alleged scheme, a booklet which the then Minister for Health " is about to introduce". I should add that a copy of that booklet was sent by the then Minister for Health, Deputy Dr. Browne, to every Archbishop and Bishop in Ireland, including His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin. Somewhere about that time—I think it was the 8th March—an advertisement of a lurid character appeared in the newspapers. The Archbishop of Dublin then wrote a letter on the 8th March, 1951, to which reference has been made and which was published by the ex-Minister in to-day's newspapers. I received a letter from His Grace forwarding me a copy of the letter that he had sent to the then Minister for Health, Deputy Dr. Browne. That letter has so far not been published. I have refrained up to this from reading in detail or at length the correspondence which has appeared in the newspapers. I must, however, read this letter now because it has not been published. It is dated 8th March, 1951, from Archbishop's House, Dublin:—
"My dear Taoiseach.
I have been surprised to read in the daily Press of the sudden determination of the Minister for Health to implement the mother and child health service, in the manner in which he conceives the service.
To-day, I have received a letter from the Minister for Health, enclosing a pamphlet which purports ‘to explain the principles of the mother and child service which the Minister is about to introduce'.
I beg to enclose a copy of the letter which I at once feel it my duty to send to the Minister for Health.
I am happy to take this occasion of expressing again to you, on behalf of the Hierarchy and on my own behalf, my grateful appreciation of the immediate understanding and co-operation I have on every occasion received from you, as Taoiseach, in all that concerns the provision of a sane and legitimate mother and child health service."
I want to pause here and say that, throughout this entire transaction from the 11th October, 1950, until the last letter from the Hierarchy, the Archbishop insisted, in every interview he had with Deputy Dr. Browne and in every letter that was written, that he dealt with me as head of the Government and that it was only with the head of the Government the Hierarchy would deal and it was, in fact, as a matter of courtesy and kindness that the Archbishop of Dublin saw the Minister for Health on several occasions. I think I should read the letter, of which I got a copy, which the Archbishop sent to the then Minister for Health, Deputy Dr. Browne:—
I beg to thank you for your letter of the 6th instant received by me to-day, enclosing a pamphlet which purports to explain the proposed mother and child health service.
I welcome any legitimate improvement of medical services for those whose basic family wage or income does not readily assure the necessary facilities.
And, if proof be needed of my attitude, I may be permitted to point to many actions of my Episcopate, in particular to the work of the Catholic Social Service Conference founded by me, more especially to its maternity welfare centres.
I regret, however, that, as I stated on the occasion when, on behalf of the Hierarchy, I asked you to meet me with Their Lordships of Ferns and Galway, I may not approve of the mother and child health service, as it is proposed by you to implement the scheme.
Now, as Archbishop of Dublin, I regret that I must reiterate each and every objection made by me on that occasion and unresolved, either then or later, by the Minister for Health."
I pause there and I ask Deputies to remember that on this occasion the former Minister for Health alleges that he had satisfied the Hierarchy and that I had corroborated that he had satisfied the Hierarchy. That letter states on the face of it the plain fact that no such satisfaction had been given. The letter goes on:—
"Inasmuch as I was authorised to deal with the Taoiseach, on behalf of the Hierarchy, I have felt it my duty to send to the Taoiseach to-day, for his information, a copy of this letter.
I shall report to the Hierarchy, at its general meeting, the receipt to-day of your letter, with enclosed pamphlet."
Now, if the case made by the then Minister for Health, now Deputy Dr. Browne, was correct, and if his allegations against me and my colleagues had the slightest foundation and truth, would he not at once have written to His Grace and said: "This is an astounding letter, since I was satisfied that I had satisfied Your Grace and Their Lordships at my interview with you on 11th October. What is the meaning of your now saying that you cannot approve of the mother and child health service and that you must reiterate each and every objection made by you on the occasion of my interview and, either then or later, unresolved by me as Minister for Health?"
Would you not think he would sit down at once and write to me, or that he would ring me up, and ask me: "What is the meaning of this letter? Did you not send that letter that I asked you to send? Did you not forward that draft I asked you to forward, as a matter of record"—as he says now—"and what is the meaning of all this? I have satisfied Their Lordships and did I not merely get you, as a matter of record, to send on that document?" Would you not expect him to sit down and do that, and when that was not done, does it not show the falsity of the case made against me and my colleagues now in this document read out to-day by Deputy Dr. Browne?
That letter was not acknowledged. There was no acknowledgment from that day to this of that letter of the 8th March, 1951. When I got it I decided to let a few days elapse, in order to see would the Minister reply to it. He did not communicate with me in any way about that letter. From that day to this he never said a word to me about that letter, except in the subsequent correspondence that took place afterwards. He did not ring me up. He had not even the courtesy to acknowledge that letter to His Grace the Archbishop. If it were merely even as a matter of courtesy, he should have done that, but it was a matter of vital import for him and of fundamental importance in the case he is making to-day, and it shows the falsity of it. He now alleges that it was my duty to send on the draft letter that he had prepared last November, that I and my colleagues misled him into an expensive advertising campaign and into this controversy with his colleagues in the medical profession. Would he not have rushed at once to me on the telephone and accused me of failure in my duty and rushed to the Archbishop or at least sent a letter to him? He did neither.
The matter does not end there. I let the matter lie for a few days. I showed the letter to my colleagues and discussed it with them, and on Monday, the 12th March, I think it was, as far as my recollection goes, my colleague, the Tánaiste, approached Deputy Dr. Browne and asked what he was doing about the letter from His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin. "I am going to do nothing about it" was the reply. The Tánaiste asked: "Are you not going to acknowledge its receipt?"
"I am not going to do anything about that letter; there is nothing in it; it does not require an answer; the whole thing is all nonsense; there is nothing in the Archbishop's allegation."
He said he was not going to answer it. The Tánaiste reported this to me. It gave me rather some food for thought. At all events, I wrote, as you would have expected Deputy Dr. Browne to have written, a letter acknowledging the letter I had got. On the 9th March, the day after I received the letter, I wrote:—
"My dear Lord Archbishop:
I am in receipt of Your Grace's letter of yesterday's date enclosing me a copy of a letter addressed by you to the Minister for Health.
I am grateful for Your Grace's courtesy in sending me a copy of that letter and deeply appreciate your kind words in my respect.
It is hardly necessary for me to say that Your Grace's views will receive respectful and earnest consideration."
It was on Thursday, the 8th March, that the letter was addressed by the Archbishop to the Minister. I let the matter lie for a while again after the Tánaiste spoke to the Minister, to see what he was going to do about answering the letter, but nothing happened.
On Wednesday, the 14th March, I went down to Connemara to the late Deputy Mongan's funeral. I returned at 5 o'clock in the afternoon from Carna, to find the Minister for Health looking for me. I interviewed him in my room. He wanted £30,000. You have seen the letter in the newspapers to-day from the Minister for Finance in reference to the application he had made to the Minister for this £30,000. The Minister for Finance had stated that this was a matter of fundamental principle and should come before the Cabinet in the ordinary way. The Minister for Health came to me to ask for a Cabinet meeting that night to get the £30,000. I said it was an extraordinary proceeding and asked: "What do you want it for?" He replied:—
"If I get the £30,000 I will have the doctors killed on Sunday; I will finish the controversy on Sunday; it will be finished for all time, if I get the £30,000; the private medical practitioners are meeting on Sunday and I believe that if I get the £30,000 the controversy will be at an end. The doctors will be killed and beaten but if I do not get the money now there will be trouble from the doctors."
I said: "What about the Bishops, what about the Archbishop's letter?""There is nothing in that," he replied; "there is nothing in those letters; I am assured on the advice of theologians that there is nothing in that letter."
Then I took my stand, the stand that I am now accused of having taken all the time—and of having taken surreptitiously. I said that I thought all this trouble with the doctors was coming to a disreputable head. I said:—
"Whatever about fighting the doctors, I am not going to fight the Bishops and whatever about fighting the Bishops, I am not going to fight the doctors and the Bishops. It may come to a point where either you or I will leave the Cabinet on this, unless we can settle the matter with the Bishops."
He asked for a Cabinet meeting. I said that it would be preferable not to take a decision on a fundamental matter of that kind in the absence of his Leader, who was then in New York or elsewhere in America, but I promised that I would consult my colleagues that night to see if I could get a meeting the next morning. He rang at 10 o'clock that night on the telephone and spoke about the matter and I told him that before he did anything further in this controversy, he would have to clear up the matter of the Hierarchy's objections. I had not the telephone left down out of my hand when the newspaper reporters were able to report that the conversation had taken place between me and the Minister for Health and what it was about. Behind all this correspondence and controversy, there is someone of sinister and evil influence who informed the journalists of the conversation that had taken place between me and the Minister for Health and who, apparently, had been in that room with him. On the following day, the 15th March, I wrote the letter that has started this correspondence which has appeared in the newspapers, at the instance of the Minister for Health. I feel I must read that letter, which was as follows:—
"As I indicated to you yesterday afternoon, I am gravely concerned at the contents of the letter, dated 8th March, which His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin wrote to you upon your sending His Grace a pamphlet on the proposed mother and child health service.
In that letter His Grace said:—
‘I regret, however, that, as I stated on the occasion when, on behalf of the Hierarchy, I asked you to meet me with their Lordships of Ferns and Galway, I may not approve of the mother and child health service, as it is proposed by you to implement the scheme.
Now, as Archbishop of Dublin, I regret that I must reiterate each and every objection made by me on that occasion and unresolved, either then or later, by the Minister for Health.'
In reply to the letter which His Grace wrote to me when forwarding me a copy of his letter to you, I stated that His Grace's views would receive respectful and earnest consideration.
I understand that you have not replied to His Grace's letter. I am afraid you do not appear to realise the serious implications of the views expressed in that letter since you have by advertisement and otherwise continued to publicise the scheme to which objections have been taken. Such action might well seem to be defiance of the Hierarchy."
At this stage I should recall a fact which I have overlooked. I have mentioned the letter of the 8th March from the Archbishop to the Minister— the copy which the Archbishop sent me was delivered to me by hand on that date—which the Minister did not acknowledge from that day to this; instead of acknowledging that letter, instead of going to the Archbishop and asking what it was about, the Minister went on the radio that night and explained the mother and child scheme, reiterating all the various essential ingredients of that scheme to which the Hierarchy objected and which objection had been that very day repeated by His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin in his letter. Over the air he, in effect defied the Archbishop.
My letter went on:—
"I should also like to recall to you the letter, dated 10th October, 1950, which His Lordship the Bishop of Ferns addressed to me on behalf of the Hierarchy, setting forth in detail objections to the mother and child health service as proposed by you. As you have been aware, I have so far refrained from replying to that letter. I have postponed sending a formal reply in the hope that you would have been able to achieve a satisfactory adjustment of the matters in controversy. Your letter forwarding a copy of your scheme to the Archbishop of Dublin and His Grace's reply thereto intimating his intention of reporting on the matter to the Hierarchy, have, however, now made it difficult for me further to postpone replying to the letter from the Bishop of Ferns.
I have no doubt that all my colleagues and, in particular, yourself, would not be party to any proposals affecting moral questions which would or might come into conflict with the definite teaching of the Catholic Church. Having regard to the views expressed in the letters received from the Hierarchy, I feel that you should take steps at once to consult Their Lordships so as to remove any grounds for objection on their part to the mother and child health service and to find a mutually satisfactory solution of the difficulties which have arisen.
I can assure you that immediate steps will be taken to dispose of any financial matters which may be outstanding in regard to the proposed service on the understanding that the objections raised by the Hierarchy have been resolved. Indeed, I may say that to my mind the financial questions which may remain outstanding are altogether insignificant and susceptible of speedy solution once the larger issues raised in the correspondence from members of the Hierarchy are settled.
I need hardly add that the Government are strongly in favour of a mother and child service, and are anxious that it should be made operative as soon as possible, and trust that your further negotiations will enable this desirable object to be achieved."
I received a letter from Dr. Browne dated the 19th March which started in a most extraordinary way. The first part of the letter is:—
"Am I correct in thinking from the terms of your letter of March 15th that you are under the impression that the Hierarchy are opposed to the mother and child health protection scheme? May I point out that this impression, if held by you, is certainly not borne out by the following facts."
"Was I under the impression that the Hierarchy was opposed to the scheme?" The letter of the 10th October, 1950, was still there and the letter of the 8th March had just arrived a few days before. Then he goes on to make the allegations which he now admits to be false, that he had satisfied His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin and Their Lordships the Bishops of Ferns and Galway and that I had corroborated it. He says:—
"Since the receipt of your letter I have been in communication with a member of the Hierarchy, who further assures me that, so far as he is aware, the Hierarchy as such have expressed no objection to the mother and child scheme whatsoever on the grounds of faith and morals."
When a letter was written on behalf of the Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland, and the Archbishop of Dublin and the Bishops of Ferns and Galway interviewed the Minister saying that they had objections and when the letter of the 8th March, 1951, was still unanswered, anyone who could put that statement on record is, in my submission to this House and to the country, not worthy of credence. Then he goes on to ask me:—
"I would be interested to know whether your withholding of approval to the mother and child scheme is due either to the supposed opposition of the Hierarchy to the scheme or to the possible opposition of any individual member of the Hierarchy. I would be glad if you would treat this matter as extremely urgent, in view of the fact that I must complete, as you yourself have suggested, my further investigations of these misapprehensions with the minimum of delay."
"Supposed opposition of the Hierarchy," in the teeth of the documents and the facts that I have recited here! Again, it is my submission that anyone who would put that on record is not worthy of credence. There is the somewhat subtle reference to an "individual member of the Hierarchy", rather suggesting, I think, that the objection to the scheme came from His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin rather than from the Hierarchy as a whole. I wrote back a letter dated the 21st March, 1951, in which I drew the Minister's attention to the letters that were there and which were written condemnations of this submission he was making. I want to read some of the paragraphs. I said:—
"As I have already indicated, I am at a loss to understand how you could feel satisfied that you had, at your interview on the 11th October last, with His Grace the Archbishop and Their Lordships of Galway and Ferns, satisfactorily disposed of their objections. I certainly never stated to you, as you suggest, that I was in a position to corroborate His Grace's and Their Lordships' satisfaction with the explanation which you gave in connection with their objections to the scheme. In view of what I had been told by His Grace at my interview with him, I certainly could have given you no such assurance. Out of consideration for you and in an earnest desire to help you in the difficulties which the Hierarchy see in your scheme, I offered my personal help to you as intermediary with the Hierarchy to try to smooth those difficulties and resolve their objections, which I felt could be done by appropriate amendments of the scheme and amending legislation if necessary. To illustrate how it might be possible to meet some of the objections I suggested that you might introduce into the Health Bill, 1950, then before the Dáil, an amendment of Section 21 of the Health Act, 1947, by deleting from the section the words ‘and for their education in respect thereof'.
That you are seriously in error in thinking that you had satisfied His Grace and Their Lordships at your interview is amply borne out by the letter of the 8th March last to you from His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin when he specifically stated, in the passages quoted in my recent letter to you, that on the occasion of your interview he stated that he could not approve of the scheme. In that letter His Grace, as Archbishop of Dublin, reiterated each and every objection made on the occasion of the interview with you and which he said were ‘unresolved either then or later' by you.
My withholding of approval of the scheme is due to the objections set forth in the letter to me from the secretary to the Hierarchy, written on behalf of the Hierarchy, and to the reiteration of their objections by His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, as Archbishop of Dublin.
My letter to you of the 15th instant was a request to you to have those objections resolved."
I think that on that very day, that is, the 21st March, there was handed to me a copy of a letter issued on the instructions of Dr. Browne to the general secretary of the Irish Medical Association, copies of which had been sent by him to the Government Information Bureau, for release to the Press. I stopped the publication of that letter because it referred to his scheme as Government policy It was of a kind that I entirely disapproved. I then wrote Dr. Browne a letter and had it transmitted that very evening:—
"Your letter addressed to-day to the Irish Medical Association has been brought to my notice by the information bureau. I have directed them not to issue it.
In the course of your letter you stated that it was proposed to proceed with the introduction of your mother and child scheme as already outlined by you, describing it as Government policy.
I have already informed you in recent correspondence, and particularly in my letter to you of to-day's date, that your scheme in the form outlined by you was not acceptable to the Government unless and until the express reservations made by the Hierarchy in their letter of the 10th October last from the secretary to the Hierarchy and by the Archbishop of Dublin in his letter of the 8th March to you are satisfactorily disposed of. Accordingly, you are not entitled to describe your scheme as Government policy and you must not so describe it hereafter unless and until you have satisfied the Hierarchy that in respect of the matters relating to faith and morals your scheme is unobjectionable."
I got a letter dated the same day from Deputy Dr. Browne and, for the first time, although there had been correspondence on this matter of the kind I have referred to, he expressed horror that I had not transmitted the draft letter that he had sent me last November. I had been pressing him to clear up this matter with the Hierarchy. Now, for the first time, when I stopped the publication of his letter to the Irish Medical Association, he makes the case that he was horrified to discover that I had not sent his letter to the Hierarchy. He said:—
"I was horrified to learn for the first time only a few days ago that you had, in fact, never sent it."
I myself had already stated before to him:—
"Remember, I have not yet answered the letter."
My colleague, Mr. MacBride, the Minister for External Affairs, will bear out that he had spoken to Deputy Dr. Browne several times. He never referred to this fact until then, until the time I stopped the publication of his rather scandalous letter to the Medical Association. On the following day I replied to Deputy Dr. Browne:—
"I have your reply of the 21st March, 1951, to my letter of the same date. I did not, in that letter, address myself to the reasons which you had advanced in support of your suggestion that the Hierarchy are not opposed to the mother and child scheme as outlined by you. I did not do so because it is for the Hierarchy alone to say whether or no the scheme contained anything contrary to Catholic moral teaching. It is clear from the letter which His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin addressed to you on the 8th March, 1951, that the objections put forward on the occasion of your interview with him and with Their Lordships of Ferns and Galway on the 11th October last were ‘unresolved either then or later'. It is clear from the same letter, that His Grace sent me a copy of it inasmuch as he was authorised to deal with me ‘on behalf of the Hierarchy'.
My actions in regard to this matter since I received the letter from His Lordship the Bishop of Ferns on the 10th October last have been entirely actuated by what I conceived to be a friendly desire to help a colleague and I take it somewhat amiss to find misconstrued my endeavours to have the objections to the scheme which had been advanced on behalf of the Hierarchy satisfactorily resolved."
There is no necessity to repeat the rest of it.
On 22nd March, Holy Thursday, Dr. Browne went to see the Archbishop of Dublin. He did not make any complaint to the Archbishop of his horror at my failure to reply to the letter of 10th October and he never mentioned it at the interview. He went there and said he wished to have an authoritative decision. I believe he went there following a conversation he had with my colleague, Mr. Norton. At all events, after the interview, he telephoned to me. This, as I say, was on Holy Thursday. The Archbishop of Dublin had been up at 4.30 a.m. that day, and, while consecrating the Holy Oils, he received a message from the Minister for Health that he wanted to see him immediately. In view of the underlying suggestions running through the Minister's indictments and letters about His Grace the Archbishop, I want again to put this in as further evidence of the extraordinary kindness and consideration of His Grace towards Dr. Browne.
He saw him that day, which is the busiest day in the year for a Bishop, and Dr. Browne rang me and told me he had been with His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin. He said he had agreed with His Grace that the matters arising out of the mother and child scheme should be adjudicated upon by the Hierarchy; that his case should be transmitted by me as head of the Government to Dr. Staunton; and that the question should then be decided as a matter of faith and morals by the Hierarchy. He said he would have no alternative but to accept the decision and he gave an undertaking to His Grace to that effect. He said he had requested His Grace to endeavour to have the matter put on the agenda for the meeting of the Hierarchy in Low Week, so as to have an early decision, in view of the importance of the matter to him, as it might mean his leaving the Cabinet. He said that he would instruct his officials to get on with the preparation of his case as quickly as possible. I agreed to the course suggested and stated that I would write immediately to Dr. Staunton, on receiving his document and forward it with my letter. I took the precaution of making a note of the telephone conversation with Dr. Browne, in view of the suggestion he had made previously —and I very seldom adopt that course.
His Grace the Archbishop asked me to come to see him and told me of the interview. I am at liberty to say that now, and I am at liberty to say what took place and the account he gave me.
Dr. Browne arrived at the Archbishop's residence and made the case that he had already satisfied Their Lordships. Dr. McQuaid went through the details of the interview of 11th October, 1950, which seemed to shock the then Minister, who had no recollection, good, bad or indifferent, of those details. He was then persuaded that his recollection was utterly and absolutely inaccurate and unreliable. He now accepts that position. He subsequently went to Dr. Staunton, Bishop of Ferns, who gave him the same account. The man who made that case right up to that time asks that his recollection should be put against mine and against the documents.
At all events, he prepared a case, a long document of eight typewritten pages, and I propose now to refer to an aspect of the matter that is vital in the setting in which we have to consider it, in view of the effect of the publication of this correspondence— and I take a very grave view of Dr. Browne's putting these private letters into the public Press as he did to-day —and in view of the suggestions that will be made and have been made or hinted at as to the Hierarchy trespassing upon the civil authority and going beyond their sphere. All this up to this had been private. There was not a word outside, and even some of my colleagues did not know the full details at this stage; I kept it from them in order that there should be as little publicity as possible, in the hope and belief that there would be a settlement of this unfortunate and disreputable affair.
Dr. Browne asked for a decision. He requested an authoritative decision from the entire Hierarchy. He first put to His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin the question: "What is Your Grace's view? Is this mother and child scheme contrary to Catholic social teaching?" And His Grace said to him: "Most definitely, yes, in my opinion." Dr. Browne then said: "That is an end of it. If that is so, it is a very serious matter for me, as it will involve my leaving the Cabinet." Then he said: "As it is so important, I would like and ask Your Grace to get a decision from the entire Hierarchy." There he asks for a decision. Up to this, the Hierarchy had expressed their views in a private way to the Government. It should never have come out and need never have come out, but now Dr. Browne asks for a decision.
At the very end of his memorandum, which I submitted to the Hierarchy at his request, this phrase occurs:—
" ...the Minister respectfully asks whether the Hierarchy considers that the mother and child scheme is contrary to Catholic moral teaching."
That is the query put up to the Hierarchy at his request. The decision is to be given authoritatively. He asks for a decision, for an immediate decision, and he undertook to the Archbishop of Dublin to abide by the decision. He repeated these matters to me and he asked the Archbishop that the matter should be determined, in view of its importance, at the forthcoming meeting in a few days of the Irish Hierarchy at Maynooth in Low Week. It was quite an unprecendented thing for such a request to be made. The Archbishop of Dublin told him that it was difficult to get that done, that it would not ordinarily be possible to get it on the agenda except on a fortnight's notice, but that he would try. Again, in view of the innuendoes and suggestions made against His Grace, I want the public to know this, that an immediate decision of the Hierarchy was pressed for at the urgent request and insistence of the then Minister for Health, who was always in a hurry, except—may I remark in passing, tying it up with a remark I made earlier— when it comes to pressing forward an amendment of the sections of the Health Act which are contrary to the Constitution and which he did not press at all. The Archbishop went to Wexford—travelled down to Wexford himself—with these documents, in order to ensure that they would be put on the agenda, at the urgent request and insistence of the then Minister.
That was done, and in the meantime Deputy Dr. Browne went around the country, as he said, interviewing Bishops and theologians. Afterwards he rang me up and said that everything was grand and there was nothing wrong with the scheme. So that the record may be kept right, I will read the letter I sent, with Dr. Browne's memorandum, to Dr. Staunton on 27th March:—
"I beg to enclose a memorandum of observations of the Minister for Health on various matters relating to the mother and child scheme referred to in a letter dated the 10th October, 1950, addressed to me by Your Lordship as secretary to the Hierarchy.
May I be allowed to state that since the receipt by me from His Grace of Dublin of Their Lordships' letter my colleagues and I have given anxious consideration to the objections made by the Hierarchy to the scheme advocated by the Minister for Health.
His Grace of Dublin has on many occasions seen me in the interval and kindly agreed to inform the Standing Committee that the Government would readily and immediately acquiesce in a decision of the Hierarchy concerning faith and morals.
If I have not answered earlier and in detail the letter of the Hierarchy, I trust that it will be understood that both His Grace of Dublin and I believed it to be much more advantageous in the special circumstances of the case to await developments."
May I pause there in the quotation of this letter to refer to the allegation made by Deputy Dr. Browne that this is some different explanation—that I have given three different explanations —for not answering earlier the letter of the Hierarchy? Does any fairminded person believe that? It is plain that I was doing my best. It is plain that the Tánaiste, Dr. O'Higgins, Mr. Dillon and—in particular— Mr. MacBride, were doing their level best to find some adjustment of the matter at issue. Dr. Browne has had the start of a whole day to make his allegations, and no matter what I do I shall never catch up with him to the end of my public life, and certainly not in respect of that newspaper to which I have already referred. I now continue to quote the letter which I sent to the Most Rev. Dr. Staunton on the 27th March:—
"Within recent weeks the publication by the Minister for Health of a brochure explaining his scheme called forth from His Grace of Dublin an immediate reply in which His Grace reiterated each and every objection already made by him to the scheme.
After an interview with His Grace in which the Minister had been again warned of His Grace's objections and had himself asked for an early decision of the Hierarchy the Minister for Health forwarded to me the enclosed memorandum.
His Grace of Dublin has kept me accurately informed of these latter circumstances and has kindly agreed to request Your Lordship as the Most Reverend Secretary to include the Minister's observations on the agenda of the forthcoming meeting of the Hierarchy."
I sent a copy of that letter to Dr. Browne on the 28th March. Would one not think that I would have done the same thing—that is, sent him a copy of it—if I had, in fact, transmitted the letter, the draft of which he sent me in November, and by not transmitting which he now accuses me of having caused him embarrassment? I got a letter dated the 29th March from Rev. Dr. Staunton acknowledging receipt of these documents. It is as follows:
"I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 27th instant, and of the memorandum of the Minister for Health on various matters in relation to the mother and child scheme, which I shall bring before the Standing Committee and the general meeting of the Bishops in the very near future.
The Bishops will appreciate very deeply the kind and thoughtful consideration which Your Excellency has given to their views on this matter."
Deputies will notice in that letter that the memorandum is to be brought before the Standing Committee and the general meeting of the Bishops— because suggestions were made verbally that the letter of the 10th October, 1950, never came before the Bishops at all; that only a few select busybody Bishops were interfering with this matter.
On the 5th April the Archbishop of Dublin waited on me very formally at Government Buildings and handed me the result of the deliberations. He told me that he, during his period of ten years as Archbishop, had never seen such detailed and close and long consideration given to any document as was given to the submission by Dr. Browne. I may be permitted to point out that the memorandum which Dr. Browne submitted was practically a copy, with some additions, of the memorandum which he had sent to me on the first occasion; in it he repeated again the sentence that I think I have already read as an extract from that draft which he sent to me when he returned the original letter of the 10th October, 1950, to me—
"The Minister presumes that the elimination of the means test could not be a factor which weighed with the Hierarchy in arriving at the opinion quoted above."
All I have said here now demonstrates the infinite capacity of Dr. Browne for self-deception. In an eight-page detailed document he presumes that the fundamental objection is not an objection at all. There is no limit to the capacity of Dr. Browne to deceive himself.
The Archbishop handed me the reply conveying the Hierarchy's decision. It has already been published. I do not want to read it out now but I hope that everybody will read it and ponder on it. Every word carries its own weight. There is great economy of language and there is great understatement. There are a few aspects of it, however, to which I wish to direct attention. The letter transmitting the reply of the Hierarchy, which was handed to me on the 5th April, is as follows:—
"At our Standing Committee Meeting on the 3rd instant, and again at our General Meeting yesterday, the 4th instant, in St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, long and careful consideration was given by the Hierarchy to the memorandum which you had forwarded in your letter of 27th March from the Minister for Health on his mother and child health scheme.
I have the honour to transmit to you the reply of the Hierarchy, representing the unanimous decision of the General Meeting of the ArchBishops and Bishops.
I have been deputed to sign the enclosed reply on behalf of the Hierarchy."
The suggestion has been made verbally that the Hierarchy as a whole never saw the letter of the 10th October, 1950, at all and that only a few select Bishops were interfering. So that there could be no shadow of a doubt about that, and that such a suggestion could not be made again, Dr. Staunton, in acknowledging my letter to him enclosing the then Minister's memorandum of submissions, said he would bring it before the Standing Committee and the General Meeting of the Bishops. This letter from the Archbishop of Dublin to me specifically states, so that that sort of nonsense to the effect that the Bishops had never seen it could not be repeated, that the matter was before the Standing Committee Meeting and also the General Meeting of the Bishops of Ireland, that the decision was unanimous, that it was not a few busybody Bishops who were interfering, but that the decision was given as a decision on a matter of Catholic social teaching. It followed the express request of the then Minister for Health for an authoritative decision—and he got it—and he had undertaken to abide by it. From that day to this, since the evening of the 5th April, when I handed a copy of it to him in this House shortly after I got it and as soon as I could get it typed, I got no assurance from the then Minister for Health, nor from Deputy Dr. Browne since he left the post of Minister for Health, that he proposes to carry out the undertaking given by him to the Archbishop of Dublin when he requested an immediate decision and after an unprecedented act by the Hierarchy of taking this out of its usual course, to serve his convenience, at their meeting in Low Week.
Deputy Dr. Browne made the point that, because the Bishops, when they gave the seven reasons condemning the scheme, spoke of its being opposed to Catholic social teaching, there was nothing in this decision of the Hierarchy at all and that it was not a decision given on a matter of faith and morals. I took the precaution of getting an authoritative interpretation of the expression "Catholic social teaching" and I was informed that it had the same weight as—if not even greater weight than—the expression "Catholic moral teaching". The words used by the Archbishop to me were that it was clear-cut—that it was a clear-cut condemnation of a scheme, which the Bishops detest. The Bishops were solely interested in principles, not in details. As far as this particular scheme is concerned, it was clearly condemned on the grounds of the Catholic moral law, Catholic social teaching, Catholic teaching as applied to society and not restricted to sexual morality or even to the laws as applied to the individual.
I want to point out another thing in this letter which is of vital importance. The reasons for the Bishops objecting to the scheme are given: "Firstly, secondly, thirdly, fourthly, fifthly, sixthly, seventhly" and each is prefaced by the words "in this particular scheme". We have "Firstly: In this particular scheme;""Secondly and thirdly: In this particular scheme;""Fourthly: To implement this particular scheme;""Fifthly: In implementing this particular scheme;""Sixthly and seventhly: This particular scheme." This scheme and this scheme only is condemned, and there are any number of schemes that would come, and that could come, within the general scope of Catholic social teaching. It is only this particular scheme that has been pronounced against—this scheme which has caused so much agony and controversy, as well as the public scandal caused by the former Minister in releasing these private letters for publication in the Press this morning.
From the letter written to Deputy de Valera on the 13th October 1947, to the last letter, from which I will read in a few moments to the House, the Bishops emphasise their desire, intention and wish for a sane and legitimate mother and child scheme and that is also stated in this final letter to me. I want to quote these paragraphs for the House and for the people outside so that they may be pondered and considered and that all those vile suggestions that will be made from various quarters against the Hierarchy will be put in their true perspective and judged for what they are worth. The Bishops' letter reads:—
"The Archbishops and Bishops desire to express once again approval of a sane and legitimate health service which will properly safeguard the health of mothers and children.
The Hierarchy cannot approve of any scheme which, in its general tendency, must foster undue control by the State in a sphere so delicate and so intimately concerned with morals as that which deals with gynaecology or obstetrics and with the relation between doctor and patient.
Neither can the Bishops approve of any scheme which must have for practical result the undue lessening of the proper initiative of individuals and associations and the undermining of self-reliance."
In the last paragraph they write:—
"Accordingly, the Hierarchy have firm confidence that it will yet be possible, with reflection and calm consultation, for the Government to provide a scheme which, while it affords due facilities for those whom the State, as guardian of the common good, is rightly called upon to assist, will none the less respect, in its principles and implementation, the traditional life and spirit of our Christian people."
In every letter written by the Hierarchy they say that they want a sane and legitimate scheme for our people. They would welcome such a scheme and want such a scheme but not this particular scheme. Not only would this scheme not give the people what they require but, by the obstinacy and persistence of the Minister for Health in his catchword—because behind it there is no properly-thoughtout scheme—he has put across by propaganda, on the unfortunate people of the country the idea that they will get something for nothing and that every woman who is going to have a child can go to the finest specialist in Dublin and get first-class treatment free of charge, whereas in fact the scheme is based, if it is based on anything, on the dispensary system and making everybody go to the dispensary. Later the former Minister considered letting in the ordinary medical practitioners but no scheme was thought out behind all this. The Bishops say that the scheme is wrong according to the moral law. It is apparent from the Government's decision that this Government has always been, and still is, anxious to provide a scheme which is approved by the Hierarchy and that they will, in that spirit and mood—of which Deputy Dr. Browne is quite incapable—of reflection and calm consultation, provide a scheme which will give what our people require and still respect Catholic social principles.
It was on Thursday that the Hierarchy's decision reached me, and on that night Deputy Dr. Browne rang me up to ask me to mention it at the Cabinet next day, but I had myself already put it on the agenda. Deputy Dr. Browne represents here, elsewhere and in this morning's newspapers that he had given an undertaking to respect any decision of the Hierarchy on faith or morals; he gave that undertaking unasked, voluntarily and on his own. He represented himself as a man who was always ready and willing to do so. I repeat that, from the time I gave that letter to Deputy Dr. Browne on the 5th of this month, except for what appeared in the papers to-day, I never got an assurance, an undertaking even anything in the nature of an intimation that he would abide by the decision of the Hierarchy, a decision got at his urgent request and on his giving an undertaking that he would abide by the result. Has he said to His Grace: " Because the Hierarchy's decision is against my scheme, either I must resign or reconsider the scheme?" What was the decision of the man who now says in the public Press that he was always willing to carry out his undertaking? It was to ask for a decision of the Government as to whether we would go on with his scheme or not. Would anybody think that a man so anxious to carry out his undertaking, who had got the Bishops specially to consider the matter and on whose behalf His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin had travelled from here to Wexford to get the matter put on the agenda would act in this way and perform this political manoeuvre? He asked for a formal decision:
"Is the Government prepared to go on with my mother and child scheme?"
This was Friday afternoon, the day after the letter conveying the decision of the Hierarchy had been given to me by His Grace the Archbishop. Having got a decision from the 12 of his colleagues that they were not prepared, having regard to the views of the Hierarchy, obtained at his request, to proceed with the scheme, did he, in accordance with his responsibility, in accordance with the undertaking given on his own initiative to the Archbishop set forth in the correspondence I refer to, carry out the Government's decision or the decision of the Hierarchy? He walked out without having told us what he was going to do, but he asked for time to consider his position. I informed him that I would readily grant any time he wished for reflection, and I refrained, under very great provocation for several days, from taking the action I felt I should have taken, that is, to ask for his resignation.
I want to insist that, up to the present, I have got no intimation of any class, kind or description that Deputy Dr. Browne is prepared to follow the decision of the Hierarchy.
The next thing was that I saw in the newspapers that the then Minister's private secretary had issued, at his instance, a bulletin to the newspapers. Deputy Dr. Browne was entitled and had the right to such reasonable time as he required to consider the difficulties in which he found himself, and he readily got it from myself and from my colleagues. As I told the House in the earlier part of the observations I had to make, as he left the room we offered him our help, and I personally offered him my help. He apparently collected some ladies from the Trade Union Congress in the Custom House on Sunday. At all events, he issued a bulletin to the newspapers stating that he had postponed his decision on his present position at the request of a delegation of the Trade Union Congress. I do not suppose that in the history of Cabinet Government any such thing has happened as that a Minister who was considering his position, whose colleagues had treated him as we had treated him, proceeded to tell the Press what he was doing at the instance of the Trade Union Congress and did not discuss matters in private with his colleagues. The Minister came out in public. Another bulletin was issued the next day, a somewhat similar bulletin. Then his colleague and the leader of his Party decided that it was his duty to request Deputy Dr. Browne to put his resignation in my hands. I want to say here that if Deputy MacBride had not taken that course, I myself would, under the Constitution, have requested Deputy Dr. Browne to give me his resignation. It is only right and it is only just to my loyal colleagues that I should make that quite clear.
The Minister for External Affairs told me he felt that as he had been responsible for introducing Deputy Dr. Browne as a member of the Government and as he felt he had not fulfilled the trust he had reposed in him, it was his duty to ask him to resign. That was not a matter for me and I felt I ought not either to discuss, argue, persuade or dissuade my colleague in any action he thought fit to take as Leader of his own political Party. I had formed, in my own view, a clear conclusion—and I must say this in justice to Deputy MacBride because of the attacks that have been and that may be made upon him—I had formed in my own mind, having regard to my experience over the last six months and the history of the affairs I have given in the barest outline, the firm conviction that Deputy Dr. Browne was not competent or capable to fulfil the duties of the Department of Health. He was incapable of negotiation; he was obstinate at times and vacillating at other times. He was quite incapable of knowing what his decision would be to-day or, if he made a decision to-day, it would remain until to-morrow.
It has been said he is inexperienced, but I regret my view is that temperamentally he is unfitted for the post of Cabinet Minister. I say that in public, but I say it in all charity and kindness to a former colleague whose work I appreciate. I regret very much the circumstances which have led to his resignation.
The letter Deputy MacBride sent to Deputy Dr. Browne has appeared in the newspapers. I have no hesitation in saying in public here, pledging whatever reputation I have as a constitutional lawyer, that that action of Deputy MacBride was entirely in accordance with the Constitution and in accordance with democratic procedure. It is my function as Taoiseach to accept the resignations of my colleagues, if such arise: to ask for them if occasion requires. It is my function to appoint—where men are nominated in accordance with the Constitution—those people who shall fulfil ministerial posts. I see no reason why a member, even of my own Party, who thought one of his colleagues was not doing his duty, should not suggest that he ought to resign. It would be for that man to exercise his rights——