I move the Adjournment of the House in order to carry out the undertaking which was given by the Taoiseach to-day.
Captain Cowan rose.
Vol. 125 No. 6
I move the Adjournment of the House in order to carry out the undertaking which was given by the Taoiseach to-day.
Captain Cowan rose.
I should like to point out that Deputy Cowan has no absolute right to be called on, but I am calling him because I expect his contribution, following on the statement he made last Thursday, will not be unnecessarily long.
On a point of order. Can we have an assurance from the Chair or Deputy Cowan that an opportunity will be given to other Deputies who may wish to intervene?
The Chair will endeavour to give an opportunity to other Deputies to speak. I am calling on Deputy Cowan because he was speaking when the House adjourned last Thursday. He has already made a contribution of some 30 minutes or so to the debate, and I am hoping he will consider the rights of every other Deputy.
When I was speaking in the debate on the Adjournment on Thursday last, I was arguing that the Minister for External Affairs was the nigger in the woodpile and that he had engaged in a conspiracy to destroy his Party colleague and fellow Minister, Deputy Dr. Browne. I was arguing that the efforts which were being made to settle the difficulty that had arisen, and to preserve Deputy Dr. Browne's services, invaluable services, for the nation had been sabotaged by the action of the Minister for External Affairs in demanding the resignation of Deputy Dr. Browne from the Government before the Deputies forming and supporting the Government had an opportunity to settle the matter.
Now, that argument of mine that the Minister for External Affairs was engaged in a conspiracy against Deputy Dr. Browne has been established by the statement issued by the Standing Committee of Clann na Poblachta and published in the newspapers yesterday. That statement is signed by the Minister for External Affairs and 12 others. I must, for the information of the House, read one paragraph from that statement. I am quoting from the Irish Independent of yesterday.
May I suggest that the Deputy should read the statement in full if he purports to quote at all?
This is the paragraph:—
"The events of the recent week have come as a severe shock to the rank and file of Clann na Poblachta and to the public. To us, who are members of the Coiste Seasmhach of Clann, many of us since the foundation of the Party, and closely associated with developments, these events are only a step in a determined effort to wreck the Clann without regard to the effect on the national position. Week by week, we have watched the development of these efforts and have striven to protect the Clann and the ideals for which it stands. We merely succeeded in postponing the crisis which it was planned to create. In our considered view, the issues selected were only incidental to the real objective, and were selected in order to seek public sympathy."
That statement shows that there were personal differences between the leaders in Clann na Poblachta, and it is clear, from what has been said already elsewhere, that the Minister for External Affairs was violently opposed to Deputy Dr. Browne for personal reasons. In the executive of Clann na Poblachta, Deputy Dr. Browne stood for honesty and the Minister for External Affairs stood for compromise, for surrender and for expediency. In to-day's Irish Times there is a telegram handed in by Clann na Poblachta which bears out my argument and my contention. The telegram is from the North Mayo Comhairle Ceanntair of Clann na Poblachta to the Minister for External Affairs.
On a point of order. I have no desire to prevent the Deputy quoting this document. I am glad that he is giving publicity to it, but I do suggest that it is hardly relevant to this discussion and, therefore, not in order.
The only thing that is really relevant is the statement that was made by Deputy Dr. Browne. As to whether these matters arise from the statement that was made is one which the Chair will have to consider. As far as the Chair can gather, some of the matters that are being quoted do not arise from the statement of Deputy Dr. Browne.
Anyway the telegram has a bearing on it. It is very brief. It reads:—
"Special convened North Mayo Comhairle Ceanntair of Ballina unanimously affirm complete and unquestionable belief in Seán MacBride's leadership of Clann na Poblachta and repudiates wholeheartedly Dr. Browne's futile attempt at dictatorship."
Week by week the MacBride group in Clann na Poblachta had been preparing Deputy Dr. Browne's destruction, and the Minister for External Affairs conceived the idea of harnessing to his own side the opposition of the Irish Hierarchy to the mother and child scheme. I am prepared to accept it that the Taoiseach and other Ministers were misled into the position of becoming active participators in that conspiracy against the popular, efficient and successful former Minister for Health.
It appears to me, from a perusal of the documents, that the letter of the 10th October, 1950, from the Irish Hierarchy did not come before the Government formally, or at all, although it was addressed to the Taoiseach as Head of the Government. It was given by the Taoiseach to Deputy Dr. Browne, and Deputy Dr. Browne, admittedly without delay, prepared a draft reply to be sent by the Taoiseach to His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin. That reply or any reply was not sent by the Taoiseach to the Archbishop, and the draft reply was never before the Government or considered by the Government. There is a whole story of conflicting views as to whether Deputy Dr. Browne knew, or did not know, that the reply he drafted was not sent by the Taoiseach. But these are minor matters, and depend on recollection which is notoriously unreliable. It would be important, however, to know what reply Deputy Dr. Browne did draft. This might have been given by the Taoiseach and placed on the records of the House. One paragraph has been quoted by the Taoiseach and has been described by him as dodging the entire issue. The House should have the draft so that it would know whether that description is a fair description of the reply which Deputy Dr. Browne drafted.
The Deputy must not read the Irish Times. It was published in the Irish Times and was handed to them by the former Minister for Health.
The documents made available suggest that Deputy Dr. Browne was of opinion that he had resolved the doubts of the Hierarchy, and the Government apparently were of the same opinion. Otherwise, how could financial provision be made for this scheme in the Estimate? How, otherwise, could Deputy Dr. Browne have launched his extensive scheme of publicity? How, otherwise, could Deputy Dr. Browne have delivered his radio address on the scheme to the nation? Our Constitution provides for collective responsibility by the Government for the actions or inactions of Ministers. In the matters that gave rise to this debate it would have been better if the Government, accepting responsibility for the situation that had arisen, had prevailed on the Minister for External Affairs to forget his hostility to Deputy Dr. Browne and to cease to harry their colleague, Deputy Dr. Browne, whose achievements as Minister for Health had contributed so much to the success of the Government and to the security of the Government and its Ministers.
The most disquieting feature of this sorry business is the revelation that the real government of the country may not, in fact, be exercised by the elected representatives of the people as we believed it was——
That will get a headline in the Irish Times, anyhow.
——but by the Bishops, meeting secretly and enforcing their rule by means of private interviews with Ministers and by documents of a secret and confidential nature sent by them to Ministers and to the Head of the alleged Government of the State. As a Catholic, I object to this usurpation of authority of the Government by the Bishops. As a Catholic, I protest against this secretive, occult and objectionable practice. As a Dáil Deputy, I am entitled to know all the factors that enter into the consideration of legislation, the enactment of which is part of my duty. The people I represent, the majority of them Catholics, are entitled to be similarly informed. It is wrong, morally wrong, for the Bishops to keep them and me in the dark and to exercise control in civil affairs behind their and my back in regard to matters to which they as citizens and I as their representative have express authority under the Constitution of this country to deal with. That control was exercised by the Bishops over the Government, and that control was accepted and tolerated by the Government without the knowledge of Dáil Éireann or of the people, and the public has been shocked by the revelation that that has been the position.
The majority of the people in this State are Catholics; the majority of the elected representatives of the people are Catholics. The Catholic Hierarchy are entitled to express their views on all matters of public welfare, as are the clergy of all denominations. Such views do and must commend respect, but they ought to be and they must be expressed in public so that they may be known to every citizen of the State. As a Parliament, we would be failing in our duty if we did not insist on this. If we do not, our democracy is a fraud, our Constitution a sham, and our general elections humbug, pretence and swindle. I may be the only Deputy who will speak thus openly but, let no one deceive himself, the sentiments I express are shared by the majority of intelligent Deputies. They are shared, too, by the majority of citizens of every religious denomination. They convey a warning that cannot be ignored.
We are aware from the correspondence of the following facts. The question of the mother and child scheme was specially placed on a heavy agenda for the Bishops' meeting at short notice. It was considered by the Standing Committee of the Bishops on the 3rd of this month and by a general meeting of the Archbishops and Bishops on the 4th of this month. On the 5th of this month, His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin handed the Taoiseach the declaration that the mother and child scheme was opposed or contrary to Catholic social teaching. It will be noted from the correspondence that Deputy Dr. Browne specifically asked the Taoiseach to say whether his scheme was opposed to Catholic moral teaching; he did not ask whether it was opposed to Catholic social teaching. But the decision of the Bishops was stated to be based on social teaching and not on moral teaching.
Will the Deputy say what the difference is?
The Deputy might take a course in moral theology.
When will the Deputy commence his lectures?
Whatever else may be said, nobody will assert that the Bishops did not give their decision in the minimum of time.
I have carefully read the letter sent by the Hierarchy to the Taoiseach on the 10th October, 1950, and also the letter sent by the Hierarchy to the Taoiseach on the 5th April, 1951. The outstanding objections of the Hierarchy may be taken as an objection to the provision of a free for all mother and child scheme. In setting down their objections, the Bishops trespass on the domain and seek to usurp the powers of the legitimate civil authority. In so doing, they act contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of this country.
That was said about Cardinal Mindszenty.
The Bishops deal with State taxation, which is a matter for this House and this House alone. They give views on facts, express prophetic opinions and seek to determine the meaning of, or the inferences to be drawn from, a statute. These are matters, as any student of moral theology knows, that are not within the definition of Catholic doctrine on which the Bishops may speak with authority to Catholics. The views and opinions of the Bishops also conflict with the opinions promulgated by distinguished Catholic priests who are acknowledged authorities on Catholic social teaching. On this particular subject, "Social Security in Relation to Health", a most informative lecture was delivered by Father Augustino Gemelli, O.F.M., President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Rector of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan. It was delivered before the National Conference on Social Security organised at Bologna by the Italian Catholic Action in September, 1949. Father Gemelli is a distinguished man of science; he enjoys the closest confidence of the Holy See. He is founder of and Rector of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, and Professor of Applied Psychology there. He was an intimate friend of the late Holy Father, Pius XI, who appointed him President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican City. Any pronouncement by this high authority may be safely regarded as expressing the mind of the Vatican.
Father Gemelli deals with the relation of public medical services to the systems of social security which have developed in various countries since World War II. He particularly examines the British national health service which he praises as "the closest approach yet made to the ideal system". Answering the charge that the English system amounts to nationalisation or statism, he replies:
"The charge cannot be sustained inasmuch as liberty for voluntary medical assistance is guaranteed."
And liberty for voluntary medical assistance is guaranteed in the scheme which Deputy Dr. Noel Browne formulated. In reply to the contention of some elements of private enterprise in medicine that the provision of free medical services by the State is contrary to ethics, he says that in his opinion "these persons derive their views from the individualistic tradition of the nineteenth century". In fact, he affirms that orthodoxy is on the side of State medicine. He describes the medical profession as one organ in the Mystical Body, having as its moral duty to give its best services to the whole Body. That eminent authority takes a line entirely opposed to the line taken by the Hierarchy of Ireland.
As a Catholic, I am entitled to accept that authority on social teaching and I do accept him. I think we ought to be clear in our minds on the issues that arise chiefly because of the statements that have been made here by the Taoiseach and by the Minister for External Affairs in regard to their position as Ministers of the Government when they receive a direction from the Irish Hierarchy on a matter which is not one of Catholic doctrine.
I do not propose to quote at length from this lecture. I do not propose to quote, in fact, more than a couple of lines. A substantial part of this lecture was published in the Catholic Herald on October 14th, 1949. According to that report, Father Gemelli says:—
"In the face of disease all members of the community have equal rights because health is not only an individual good but a common good."
He concludes his address by saying:—
"Catholic Italy should emulate and improve upon the British system of health service. Catholic Italy in this field of social reform has a duty to do at least as much as Protestant and Labour Britain has already done."
He deals with the duty of doctors. I shall leave that to the doctors. They can study the lecture given by this authority for themselves. He does say: "A severe judgment must be passed on the tendency which developed in the medical profession in the 19th century and later days"—in other words, the tendency of making fortunes out of the disease of members of the community. He says:—
"When we recognise that the sick person has a soul and a body, we are logically led to see in him one of our brethren, a member of the same Mystical Body, a man towards whom we extend the hand of help in the name of the rest of the brethren of the same family. Rich and poor must be convinced that in the face of sickness and disease all men are equal, all have the same rights. On entering hospital every patient ought to receive that which he requires, irrespective of social or economic condition."
He indicates that as the basic lines of reform in order to give every man social security in the field of health. "All men are equal in face of illness" and "all have the same right to necessary means to protect health; all men have the same right to measures of prevention" and again "the function of the doctor must become a function of the service of the entire social community." I do not think I need read any more extracts from that lecture. I would wish that that lecture would be read by every Deputy and by many people outside the House since it lays down specifically the principles which the President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences believes should be considered in determining a matter such as we have before us to-day.
Realising that, despite the provisions of the Constitution, the Government feels bound, as a Government, on the declaration of the Irish Hierarchy to introduce a means test, the Minister for External Affairs has suggested that by providing for the free treatment of persons whose means might not—and this was the example he gave—exceed £700 a year, that would be in accordance with the decision of the Bishops as communicated to the Taoiseach. I would ask the Government and the Minister for External Affairs, in particular, to read very carefully the declaration which they received from the Bishops because, within that declaration, the Government is not entitled to provide a limit of £700 a year, or £600 or £500 as the limit of income below which a free mother and child scheme will be available. That is perfectly clear from what the Bishops say. Therefore, the Government has not settled the issue by throwing out Deputy Dr. Browne and saying they were going to adopt a line of £500, £600 or £700 income below which they can give this mother and child scheme free. The Bishops say that they cannot do it, if the person is able to pay for the service. If the Government follows the declarations of the Bishops, they must continue the disgusting means test, to which they as well as I and everybody in this House take exception.
It is a singular fact that when the Act which gave rise to this scheme was being piloted through this House, Deputy Dr. Ryan, who was the Minister piloting it through, said on a number of occasions that this was to be a free scheme. That was the clear declaration made by him here in 1947, four years ago, that it was to be a free scheme. Deputy Dr. Noel Browne, as Minister for Health, must have studied the debates of that time and must have been satisfied that it was the general intention of the House that the scheme would be free and without a means test. The only Deputy that I can find who suggested that it should not be free, that it should be on a contributory basis, is Deputy Davin. Apart from that, everybody accepted the principle that it was a free scheme, to apply to all. That was the decision of the House in 1947, and it is in the legislation in the Health Act of 1947.
I think the Ministers are stirring up a tremendous lot of trouble for themselves if they say they intend to have a means test, and the declaration of the Minister for External Affairs the other day, that no person would be deprived of skilled medical attention under the mother and child welfare scheme through lack of means, envisages a means test of some kind. It is something contrary to the declared, in fact the unanimous, decision of this House in 1947. Are we, with a progressive Government, to go back to the reactionary ideas of the old means test, when no Party in this House supports the means test? No Party that I know of outside the House approves of the means test, but still apparently we are to be driven into it because the Bishops say that we must have a means test.
Let me take the argument of the Bishops on its highest level. If it is contrary to Catholic social teaching to provide a free mother and child health scheme for people whose income is below £500, apparently, on the interpretation of the Minister for External Affairs, do you offend Catholic social teaching if you give the benefits of a free mother and child scheme to a person who has an income of £501? That is the issue. Stop where you like. I assert categorically that there is no conflict with Catholic social teaching in the provision of a free for all mother and child scheme and I say that, if the Government accept the dictation of the Bishops in this matter, then they are flaunting the Constitution of this country and they are acting contrary to their duty as representatives of the people.
I had little intention of intervening in this question last week, except as a result of statements made by the Taoiseach and by the Minister for External Affairs, and an odd interruption by Deputy Con Lehane. I view this whole situation with disgust. People of all classes and creeds, of all political affiliations, for and against the Government, view this situation with disgust. Something has happened here in this country and in this Parliament that should never have happened, that could have been avoided by calm, cool senses, by a little more recourse to the table conference and by a little more give and take. In the hearts of Irishmen, and even in the hearts and minds of members of our Government and members of this House, there is still the old fight and the old inclination to grab and to look for Party power, to say: "Who is the big man of this Party and who is the big man of the other Party; who is the white-haired boy of this group and who is the white-haired boy of the other?" If one is advancing in leaps and bounds, through jealousy every attempt is made to drag him down. Until that jealousy leaves the hearts of public representatives, you will have men making strenuous efforts, genuine and sincere efforts, to advance the interests of the sections and classes whom they may have the honour to represent in this House, but because of petty jealousies they will be dragged down and trampled on by their own colleagues.
It is not many years since I found myself held up to public ridicule in this State, and there still remain doubts in the minds of certain people as to who was right and who was wrong on that occasion. I can understand how Deputy Dr. Noel Browne feels. I can understand the manner in which he must have felt when he saw that he was reneged by his colleagues. He probably felt exactly the same way I felt when I read the report of a certain tribunal which held me up to public exhibition in this State only three or four years ago.
When a man is up, he has many friends and great friends; when he is down his friends are few and far between; and when Deputy Dr. Browne was, if he was, guilty of an alleged offence, every effort was made by his colleagues to throw cold water on it. When I was listening to the Minister for External Affairs, his near and dear friend and his Party colleague, numbering his bones on Thursday night last, I was wondering, and I have been wondering since, whether there is any decency left in public life, even at this late stage. Listening to the Minister for External Affairs and to the Taoiseach, I have asked myself did Deputy Dr. Browne, as Minister for Health, do any good act in his three years as Minister for Health. To listen to the statements and the speeches that were made against him he was termed, as I have often been and others in this House have been termed, as being young and irresponsible. Is that a crime? Is that a charge? He was young and irresponsible, unfit to occupy a ministerial post. He should have never been in the Cabinet. We have heard all this. There was no one like Deputy Dr. Browne. He was the white-haired boy of the present Government for the first, second and third year of office. For the last three weeks or a month he has been styled and termed as a criminal as far as public life in this country is concerned. Unfit to occupy a ministerial post. Reasons, irresponsible, young, no experience. Surely it cannot be forgotten that every Minister of the Government and every Deputy who stands by the Government took great pride and delight and were charmed at every available opportunity in making it known to their constituents that the one, real, live-wire Minister we had in the Government was Deputy Dr. Browne. The Clann na Poblachta Party, on every occasion, boasted of their contribution to the Government, and rightly so, that Deputy Dr. Browne had the good wishes and the prayers of the many of those who were unfortunate to have to lie for weeks, months and years on their backs suffering from tuberculosis.
I know something about tuberculosis, probably a little more than many more fortunate members of this House know. I know and realise, from my own experience and from my contact with the various tuberculosis institutions and with some of the greatest medical authorities on tuberculosis, that not alone was Deputy Dr. Browne the best Minister for Health this country had, but the best Minister for Health in any Government in Europe. No Minister ever did more for the unfortunate people suffering from tuberculosis, a disease the treatment for which involves lying in bed months and probably years. Whoever cared, thought, worked, slaved and sacrificed his own health for them but Deputy Dr. Browne? What thanks did he get? He was irresponsible. He was no use. He did nothing right. He could not be handled. He could not be managed. Kick him out and when he is down kick him down and blacken him with the general public. That is what we have experience of.
I have often said—I have often said it in my constituency—that if there is one life the people should avoid it is public life. Every Deputy knows and realises that those for whom they work the hardest will be the first to show ingratitude. The people of this country never showed ingratitude to Deputy Dr. Browne because they never got an opportunity of expressing appreciation of the work that he did but they will get that opportunity and as clearly as they showed it with my attempts three years ago, they will show it with Deputy Dr. Browne's attempts at the first available opportunity.
The Government did great work and magnificent work. It was a Government with which I was mighty proud to be associated. From evidence of the past week the odour is getting stronger in my nostrils every day I walk into this House. Deputy Dr. Browne could not be blacker in the eyes of the men who up to recently were praising and defending him than he has been branded. Is there any Deputy in this House who can honestly stand up and tell us that while he was Minister for Health Deputy Dr. Browne ever displayed discourtesy or that he ever displayed any act of refusal to co-operate or to entertain the views of any Deputy that ever approached him? Could anybody imagine that Deputy Dr. Browne could be the impudent, insulting, offensive being that we are told he is? Did any Deputy ever approach him that he slapped the door in his teeth or that he refused to listen to him? Is there any local authority that he refused at least to consider the representations that were put up to him? Is there any Minister who was as little criticised by the Opposition as Deputy Dr. Browne? Members of the Opposition knew that he was a decent man; that he had no Party politics whatever; and that he was out in the interests of the health of this country and doing a good job, a job he could leave behind him completed in the form of a healthy nation. Deputy Dr. Browne was anxious that he should leave a healthy nation behind him when he was leaving his high office as Minister for Health.
Had we a Minister for Health before who ever went to the trouble of visiting practically every county home in the country and shaking the hand of and interviewing every person whom he styled as a pauper in this country? Did any Minister for Health ever take up the cudgels and say: "Take off the paper's uniform and the pauper's dress. Dress like the ordinary rank and file"? Deputy Dr. Browne did. Is there any Minister for Health that we ever had who condemned county homes as unfit dives for the old people and aged and those who are homeless to end their last days before they should go to their eternal reward? Deputy Dr. Browne did more than a man's part in that direction and a good display of gratitude by his colleagues was given to him.
Everybody knows that, when he was Minister for Health, his first and his one and only interest was in preserving the health of everyone in this country who was fortunate enough to have his health. For those who were deprived of the great gift of health Deputy Dr. Browne did everything he could do to have it restored. How many are now cured of tuberculosis because they got beds and proper treatment as a result of Deputy Dr. Browne's sanatorium policy and of the manner in which he brought in every suspect of tuberculosis and saw to it that treatment was given? His successor will never stand five minutes in his shoes, because Deputy Dr. Browne never can have a successor. There was only one Dr. Browne as Minister for Health and there will never be another. The Minister for External Affairs has killed the goose that laid the golden egg. He knows that now. The Government realise it and Deputy Dr. Browne's colleagues in the Cabinet know that he was a good man.
But there were more reasons for his removal than the mother and child scheme. There was something else. He was too powerful; he was too popular; he was achieving results. I claim one-seventy-sixth part of the responsibility for Dr. Browne becoming Minister for Health and I stand over that fraction of responsibility. If I had my choice-not interfering in what we know is a family dispute within the ranks of Clann na Poblachta—I should feel a happier man, having had a hand in the manufacture of this Government, if I saw the Minister for External Affairs gone and Deputy Dr. Browne there, because the Minister for External Affairs has his heart in Paris, his notebook in Strasbourg, his ambitions in Washington and his intentions in the United States, but Deputy Dr. Browne's body and soul and ambitions lie in the sick beds of the poor of this country, and that cannot be forgotten. What loss would the Minister for External Affairs be, if he were gone in the morning from this Cabinet? Would it not be a saving for the taxpayers of the country? Let him forget Partition and let us all forget Partition as a result of this unfortunate incident, because reading the Northern Whig we know the propaganda that has been made in the north out of this tragic episode.
With regard to the mother and child scheme, Dr. Browne has made his case. We are told by Deputy Cowan that it was to be a scheme without any means test. I stand in this House to-day and will stand here in the years to come, without the slightest shadow of doubt, and I favour a scheme without a means test, because the Labour Party in this House, under the able leadership of the Tánaiste, has for years advocated, and rightly so, that the means test should be abolished in respect of old age pensions. Fianna Fail saw fit to give no consideration to a means test when introducing the children's allowances. Did anything extraordinary happen as a result of having no means test in the case of children's allowances? The then Government pleased some and displeased others, but no matter what you do in this country, you cannot please everyone. You are foolish to think of it or to try it on, and any Government which tries to please all the people is doomed to disaster. It cannot be done and it never will be done.
As I say, I favour a mother and child scheme without a means test. I do not care who is for it or against it. As I say that there should be no means test in respect of old age pensions and agree that there should be no means test in respect of children's allowances, I say now that there should be no means test associated with any mother and child scheme which the Taoiseach or the Government may have in mind. I will vote against any such scheme which will have attached to it a means test. Did you ever think of the fact that, if there is such a means test, a person like a sergeant in the Guards would be deprived of the benefits of the scheme, that probably a member of this House would be deprived of its benefits, and that there are large sections of the people who are paying big doctors' bills, or, I should say, doctors' big bills, who can ill afford to pay them? I listened to the Taoiseach praising the doctors and the doctors' association. They did good work, but they are not all angels and far from being all angels. There is no section that will fleece you as quickly as the medical profession if they get the chance, and they get that chance where the money is. I am sorry to say that the same care and attention is not always given where the money is not. I suppose there are black sheep in every flock. There are good men in that profession, but they are not all what the Taoiseach or the Minister for External Affairs said.
I did not say a word about them.
And they are probably not all that members of the Government Party think they are. I believe and maintain that Deputy Dr. Browne's scheme was one which could have been hammered into a scheme to suit the requirements of the Hierarchy by sensible men sitting around a table. Deputy Cowan seems to be of the opinion that it is all the same whether we please the Hierarchy or not. He is sounding a note there from a dangerous trumpet.
I was thinking you would say that.
A very dangerous trumpet.
You are playing safe in that respect.
I hope Deputy Fitzpatrick and Deputy Lehane will sound a note from a different trumpet, as they probably will, because their band master, the Minister for External Affairs——
He would not take you into the band—that was the trouble.
I had no instrument to play in the band.
You could always blow your own trumpet. You are good at that.
And there was not enough hot air for the playing of any more instruments in the band. We have seen and read that in any European country, where there was a conflict between Church and State, it was doomed to disaster, and as surely as any Government disrespects the wishes of the Hierarchy be it here or in any other country, it will be doomed. There is always the conference table however, and what grander conference table could there be than one around which the representatives of Church and State will sit to arrive at decisions satisfactory to both Church and State and in the best interests of the community as a whole? I say, without any fear of contradiction, that this disastrous state of affairs could have been settled up and cleaned up. I say that there was no need whatever for the publicity which this matter has got in every paper that could hold print —and for the misrepresentation which it has received from sources unfavourable to this country.
There is one point I want cleared up. There is one point that this country wants cleared up. There is one point that the House would be very pleased to see cleared up and one point that in particular I should like to see cleared up if I am going to remain a supporter of the present Government. A letter which was written by Deputy Dr. Browne to the Minister for External Affairs has been given very great publicity—and similar publicity has been given to the rest of the correspondence which has been released in this unfortunate connection. In that letter which was written by Deputy Dr. Browne to the Minister for External Affairs there are extraordinary disclosures. Whom are we to believe—the Minister for External Affairs, if he has an explanation, or Deputy Dr. Browne—because for the past three years they have been close colleagues, members of the one Government, working under the one leader and sitting around the same conference table? Each Minister shares the responsibility of his colleagues' troubles. We were told that the Cabinet was a happy family. We were told that the Taoiseach, as the father of that happy family, was always proud to defend all his colleagues. We were told that the Taoiseach never worked with a greater team, that he had never seen such teamwork as that of the past three years. I wonder if the teamwork was similar to that of tug-of-war —one bunch pulling this way and another bunch pulling the other way. When friends are friends they are great friends, but when friends become enemies they become bitter enemies. Great publication and publicity and discussion have resulted from the publication of the letter from Deputy Dr. Browne to the Minister for External Affairs. May I say, at this stage, that the Minister for External Affairs is as good a friend of mine as is Deputy Dr. Browne, or the Tánaiste or the Taoiseach. They all appear in the same light to me. I am not under a compliment to any one of them, either collectively or individually. That is the very reason why I can stand up now in this House and ask questions and endeavour to clear up a statement that has been made by Deputy Dr. Browne as a Minister. When the letter in question was written Deputy Dr. Browne was a Minister, and in that letter he referred to another colleague who is a Minister. In his letter he refers to the letter which he has received from the Minister for External Affairs and he states:—
"Your letter is a model of the two-faced hypocrisy and humbug so characteristic of you."
Am I to believe that the Minister for External Affairs is a hypocrite and that humbug is the principal plan of his policy in his Department? That, however, is not the most serious part of the letter. Deputy Dr. Browne goes on to refer to the charges that were made against him by the Minister for External Affairs. Probably one of the charges which has resulted in his not being Minister for Health to-day is the charge which I quote here, the charge that:—
"... amongst other charges of my political inexperience, I had allowed myself to be photographed with the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin."
It was a serious charge, in the opinion of the Minister for External Affairs, that his colleague should have allowed himself to be photographed with the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin—and it was no charge at all for the Minister for External Affairs to be photographed with Mrs. Attlee's dog. It was a serious crime. It was an unpardonable offence. It spelt disaster for Deputy Dr. Browne, as Minister, to be photographed with one of the heads of the Protestant Church in this country.
On more than one occasion the Minister for External Affairs has condemned religious bigotry in this country and elsewhere. Publicly and openly, religious bigotry is condemned by the Minister for External Affairs— but woe to the member of his Party who sits at the table with a Protestant or who is photographed with the Protestant Archbishop. Deputy Dr. Browne's bones were torn asunder because he was photographed with the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin. Well that is worth very little comment because the statesman or the narrowminded creature who would even pass the least comment on a matter of that kind does not deserve to have his name mentioned. Do we not represent the minority in this House as well as the majority? Is it a crime to be a Protestant in this country? Great men are Protestants. Wolfe Tone was a Protestant. Why should this ever have arisen? What concern was it of the Minister for External Affairs who Deputy Dr. Browne was photographed with, either in the discharge of his own duties or in the discharge of his duties as Minister for Health? Deputy Dr. Browne further continues:—
"It is my fervent hope that the destiny of this country will never be fully placed in your hands because it would, in my view, mean the destruction of all those ideals which are part and parcel of Christian democracy."
When a colleague of the Minister for External Affairs wrote that of him, what would we expect to be written by opponents?
All those sections of that letter, however, fade into pale insignificance compared with the following paragraph. Deputy Dr. Browne writes:—
"Again may I comment on your reference to that high standard of conduct which is required in Government? Inside the Cabinet and outside, in conversations with you I have protested against the making of appointments on a corrupt basis and against other irregularities."
Does Dáil Éireann realise the seriousness and importance of this statement written publicly by a Minister concerning another Minister—and he was Minister when Deputy Dr. Browne wrote this? Am I to understand that, in the third year and third month of the present Government, the saviour of this country from corruption and bribery, the man who was going to plant the seeds of political honour and decency in this country has allowed those seeds to fall among thistles or upon the rocks and that appointments have been made in the Government in a manner other than the correct one?
I spoke with the Taoiseach in Mullingar, Cork and two or three other places. One of the lines I went on was that we could give thanks to God that the days of corrupt appointments were over, that we had a Government where merit and merit alone came first, where no consideration was given to political affiliations or political outlook, where a man got a job because he was worth a job not because he knew Deputy so and so or because he was a personal friend of this Minister, that Minister or the other Minister. Have we now learned to our regret that this was the humbug and hypocrisy about which Deputy Dr. Browne writes and that appointments have been made irregularly and through corrupt practices?
May I ask the Tánaiste—and the Tánaiste is the most honourable, straightforward and decent man in that Government to-day—may I ask him to ask the Taoiseach to give us an inquiry into this allegation that appointments have not been made according to merit?
I view with grave alarm this section of Deputy Dr. Browne's letter. If that letter came from a Deputy I would probably view it with suspicion or a small shadow of doubt, but a letter coming from a Party colleague and a Cabinet colleague of the Minister for External Affairs is something which I am prepared to view with horror, disgust and grave suspicion. I am prepared to keep that horror, disgust and suspicion in my mind until someone states that no appointments were made by the Cabinet or by the Minister for External Affairs except in accordance with the proper practice of appointment on merit.
Dr. Browne writes further:—
"I have to-day sent to the General Secretary my resignation from the Clann na Poblachta Party——"
That is nothing to do with us, but he goes on:—
"I have bidden farewell to your unwholesome brand of politics."
He has bidden farewell to the Minister for External Affairs' unwholesome brand of politics. I wonder what he really means by that? I wonder is it what I think——
——is it what I suspect? I can only associate it with the sentence I quoted a few moments ago concerning appointments. Within the closed doors of Clann na Poblachta Deputy Dr. Browne must have had a horrid experience, a sad experience and a dangerous experience. To-day he should be expressing his thanks to the Almighty at finding himself free from those experiences he has had to endure within that Party.
I hope and trust in all sincerity that the Minister for External Affairs will find it possible at least to endeavour to clear the suspicions and doubts that are disturbing the mind of the whole country to-night. I do not say that he will banish the doubts from my mind, because I may know the Minister better than the general public.
The people are not as gullible as the Deputy.
When Deputy Timoney is as long in this House as I am—and I hope he will be—he will only interrupt when he has something worth while to say.
The magnificent work done by the present Government has been undermined by this unfortunate incident and the real good has been taken out of the Tánaiste's Social Welfare Bill. I am sorry that this unfortunate state of affairs has come about. Although the Fianna Fáil element may sit silent, although they may listen, learn and smile, I am of the opinion that we will have inter-Party Government for many a long day. This is only the first obstacle to the inter-Party Government and we will probably have more because we are going to have more inter-Party Governments. I think that the Taoiseach should give serious consideration to testing the feelings of the people on the whole issue. What have the Government to be afraid of? Why should they be afraid of a general election?
Am I not trying to get it for you? And remember, when it comes, it might not be too nice for you. Public confidence in the present Government has been badly shaken over the MacBride-Browne incident. Do not forget that—badly shaken. Damage has been done that will take years to repair. Damage has been done to the anti-Partition movement in this country that will never be repaired.
A lot you care.
A lot I care? Well, if I cared very little I would certainly care more than the Deputy, so long as he has his clients coming in to him helping——
The Deputy must not introduce anybody's personal business into the debate.
I am prepared to accept the ruling of the Chair.
It is all right, I will deal with Deputy Flanagan in a few moments.
I believe that on an occasion such as this, where we have such a difference of opinion, where we have Deputy Dr. Browne making such alarming disclosures, the Taoiseach should go to the country with the least possible delay. If there is nothing to be afraid of, why not go and chance it? What have we to lose, if we are going to win? What have we to lose? I recommend that course, and I ask the Minister for External Affairs and his colleagues in the Cabinet, as I have been pressing them for the past three months, to go to the country. They do not seem inclined to go.
Is there anything that warrants a call to the country more than this issue does? I am not afraid to face my constituents on the mother and child welfare scheme, free for all and no means test, and I will come back to this House on that—there is not the least shadow of doubt in the wide world in that respect. Why do the Government not do likewise? They probably have a reason, they probably have a motive, in not going to the country. I say as a Deputy who supports them as one who was present at the birth of the inter-Party Government, as one of its sponsors, that there should be no further time lost discussing the Dr. Browne—Minister for External Affairs crux in this House. I say that the Taoiseach should go to Arus an Uachtaráin with the same speed as his predecessor, Deputy de Valera, went a few years ago, and he should ask that Parliament be dissolved and that we be given an opportunity to consult the people on the whole policy of the Government. Now, when the election would be over, I would again be prepared to support an inter-Party Government, and no other.
Why not give the people an opportunity of saying: "Get out" or "You brave boys, carry on the good work; you are doing it magnificently." But, consult the people at any rate. They are the masters. They have sent us here to do a job and if there are any doubts in our minds as to whether we are doing that job rightly or wrongly, we should consult our masters, the people, and let them decide. I make that appeal, not certainly out of love of Fianna Fáil—and everyone knows that. I make that appeal sincerely because I believe it is high time that we should consult the people and get a proper mandate to continue the work we have been doing and get their approval for the schemes we have introduced and their approval, also, for the many beneficial schemes that are to come.
We will be faced with appeals and calls and catch-cries from the Opposition every day to go to the people whenever we introduce a measure that we consider is of importance. Let us face it and get it over. If the people do not want us, good and well. If the people sow nettles they cannot expect roses to grow. Give them the type of Government they want. For that reason, I think the people should be consulted with every possible speed.
Before I resume my seat, might I warn the Taoiseach that when he undertakes the difficult task of appointing a Minister for Health, he will have some funny people to please? If he is wise, he will hold on to that Department, because the moment he starts to appoint a Minister for Health I, as one Independent Deputy, will vote against the appointment of any emergency man, if I may style him as such. We who are so much associated with land division are aware that there is a citizen who steps in to fill a gap and he is called an emergency man. I will vote against any emergency man who makes an attempt to step into Deputy Dr. Browne's shoes, because I am not satisfied that Deputy Dr. Browne got a fair crack of the whip.
Again, if the Taoiseach is of opinion that he can carry on as Minister for Health and have no critical division on the appointment of a new Minister, he will have a further obstacle in three weeks' time or a month when the Estimate for the Department of External Affairs comes up. I am one Independent Deputy who will vote against it with all my might, because I think that the Department of External Affairs has gone wild, mad, crazy, sending the Minister to the four corners of the world when he should be in Dublin doing a job for his constituents and for the people of the country.
I believe that if the Government are not beaten to-day they will be beaten to-morrow and they might as well face the music now as later on. I am speaking as one of those who will be with them in the election and with them when they return. I have always been a believer in real democracy and I am in favour of consulting the people when I believe the people should be consulted. For that reason, I make that appeal. I further believe that when the Minister for External Affairs presents his Estimate to this House, Fianna Fáil will, according to nature, oppose the Minister's Estimate, and voting on his Estimate will be several Independent Deputies who will likewise oppose it, and I am now prophesying that that Estimate will not pass this House. For that reason, before it comes, let us be prepared. Let us know where we stand.
We are displeased and disgusted with the manner in which this whole affair has been handled. I do not profess to be a very influential Deputy in this House. Far from it. But, I do say that there is not the slightest shadow of doubt in my mind that two other Deputies and myself would have settled the whole unfortunate Dr. Browne dispute in 24 hours around a conference table, if the Minister for External Affairs had kept his nose out of it. I am satisfied and quite satisfied of that. I am making that statement in the knowledge of the other Independent Deputies who were endeavouring to bridge that serious gap. I believe that, if we had got time—and all we wanted was time—the whole country would have been saved and both Church and State would have been saved severe criticism from opponents both of Church and State throughout the 32 Counties. It was a hasty decision. It was a mistake. It was a tragedy. It was a disaster. It was a huge blunder. I am sorry that, because of the blunder of one man, the prestige of his other eleven friends in the Cabinet must go down along with him. I am sorry for that. I am sorry, because there are fine men in the Government and a fine leader. I am sorry that should happen because of the attempt to grab Party power and to oust the white-haired boy who was getting too popular, doing too fine work, that was a credit to the whole nation, who was of European fame in his attempts to improve the health of the nation. It was going too well and too good and the Minister for External Affairs' achievements at the end would have faded out completely in comparison with the wonderful achievements of his bright and brilliant young colleague, the Minister for Health.
Remember, the best judges are the people and I have no doubt whatever that, when an election takes place, Deputy Dr. Browne will get a vote in his constituency that will stun this country, and it will be from the plain ordinary people, the people who are anxious to benefit, the people who have benefited by his work and his schemes and by the good work he was doing and the achievements that were a credit to him for the past three years.
It has happened now and there is nothing we can do about it. It was a sad and unfortunate incident, an incident that never should have taken place, an incident which I and my other colleagues could have settled and fixed to the satisfaction of Church and State but we did not get the chance because, at all costs, the Minister for Health must go.
There is only one way, in my opinion, that the whole thing can be properly adjusted. Test the people and I will guarantee that there are a few on the front bench of the present Government who will go more quickly and more speedily than Deputy Dr. Nöel Browne. His work will live on. After his three years, he is leaving behind a glorious monument. He is leaving behind him a monument of live men who, but for him, would be dead and in their graves and in their coffins and under their tombstones to-day, as a result of tuberculosis. They are well and hardy to-day because of his attempts and because he gave them beds when they needed beds and the attention that they needed. Now they are well and strong. What other Deputy, what other Minister, can safely say that he was a life-saver? There was never such a life-saver in this country as Dr. Browne. Thank God, he is now left the happy mind and the happy memory that, while his friends may renege him and while people may believe in him or may doubt him—and there will always be doubt in the minds of people, because everyone is not of the same opinion—he has left a great volume of useful work done, that he has served Ireland, that he has served the country, that he has served nobly the people of Dublin who sent him to this House. Above all, he can proudly say that, as a result of his efforts, there are hundreds walking around to-day in their health who would be dead and gone only for his administration in the Department of Health and the hundreds who are at present lying in the various sanatoria can safely say: "Dr. Browne has provided us with this accommodation. We thank him for it and we ask God that the years that are ahead of him in public life may be crowned with success and the good luck which he rightly and richly deserves."
I suppose it is not surprising that, in a situation such as that in which the Clann na Poblachta Party and Seán MacBride, their leader, find themselves, that situation would be availed of, and availed of to the fullest possible extent, by Deputies in the House, who have, for real or imaginary reasons, feelings of the bitterest and most vindictive malice against the Minister for External Affairs and against this Party. I want to charge, as unequivocally as I can, against Deputy Peadar Cowan and against Deputy Oliver Flanagan that, with a complete disregard for the truth, in a most irresponsible and vindictive manner, they utilised this House and the time of this House for giving vent to their unnatural and envenomed spleen.
I enjoy Deputy Flanagan. I always enjoy a good actor, a good mountebank. I enjoyed his performance this evening. As a display of histrionics, it was a remarkable effort but, as a serious contribution to the situation which this House is discussing, it was worse than valueless. Of what was the rodomontade composed, to which this irresponsible Deputy—and known nationally to be irresponsible——
There are two of us irresponsible now.
Of what was this rodomontade composed? It was composed, in the first place, of a denial that Dr. Browne was a scoundrel and a defence of Dr. Browne in respect of charges which had never been made against him. It was a denial that Dr. Browne was a number of things which he had never been alleged to be. If I am wrong on that, I ask any Deputy —I particularly invite Deputy Flanagan—to consult the shorthand note of the speech made by him and then to consult the shorthand note of the speeches made by the Taoiseach and by the Minister for External Affairs, and I invite him to show me, or to show this House, the language or the references in those speeches which he purported to reject, which he purported to repudiate and in respect of which he treated this House to a display of feigned indignation, malice— obvious bitter, personal malice— directed against the Minister for External Affairs and directed against this Party. I am not even aware of the reasons for it, but what I do know is that it has been obvious for some time.
Presumably any Deputy in this House, or any Minister who is not prepared to accept Deputy Oliver Flanagan as a paragon of all the virtues and as a respository of all the wisdom, intelligence and reason in this House and who may be audacious enough to have the view that sometimes Deputy Flanagan is a cheeky little boy, must apparently prepare himself for a similar flow of envenomed bitterness such as that to which we were treated this evening. I am sorry, and I regret that I have had to speak in such terms of Deputy Oliver Flanagan's contribution to this debate but, listening to him, I felt he was so transparently dishonest and so obviously actuated by base, mean motives that this contribution must evoke from me condemnation in the strongest possible terms.
I agree the Deputy is a good judge of dishonesty.
Deputy Flanagan was cuter and less honest than Deputy Cowan. Deputy Peadar Cowan, whether one agrees with him or not, is a man of considerable moral courage. That is more than I can say for Deputy Oliver Flanagan. Deputy Peadar Cowan, I am sorry to say, allowed personal bitterness against this Party and against the Minister for External Affairs to influence the whole of his speech. I think in Deputy Cowan's case it was a pity that happened because Deputy Cowan can make, and frequently does make, useful contributions to debate in this House.
What was the relevance of ninetenths of the display of histrionics to which we have just been treated? I do not wish to cast, and I am not to be taken as casting, any reflection on the Chair, but I do suggest that while it may have been strictly within the rules of order—I am sorry that Deputy Flanagan is leaving the House because I am not quite finished with him—his remarks bore no relevance to the question which we are discussing in this debate. Stripped of its unessentials, what is the matter we are considering? We are considering the resignation of Deputy Dr. Noel Browne as Minister for Health and the reasons given by the former Minister for Health for the step which he took. As I understand it, Deputy Dr. Browne made the case to this House that he was resigning because he had pledged himself to introduce a mother and child welfare scheme, free for all and without a means test, that the Hierarchy had expressed the view that such a scheme was contrary to Catholic teaching and that he, as a Catholic, was not prepared to introduce a scheme of which the Hierarchy could not morally approve. If I am unfair to Deputy Dr. Browne in that, if I am not correctly summarising Deputy Dr. Browne's reasons, I am open to correction and will very readily correct any misstatement.
Superimposed on these three reasons, or rather hung on these three reasons, was an attack on the Government as a whole and on the Minister for External Affairs. The case made by Deputy Dr. Browne in this House, if I can understand plain English, was that vital knowledge was withheld from him and that because that vital knowledge was withheld he was so impeded and embarrassed in his discussions with the Hierarchy that he was unable to secure their assent to the type of scheme which he wished to introduce. On that question of whether or not that knowledge was so withheld from him, in my submission the whole case made by Deputy Dr. Browne must rest. If Deputy Dr. Browne is correct in that statement, then I concede that to a large extent Deputy Dr. Browne has established his case against the Government. I concede that and I concede it freely, but if it can be shown that what Deputy Dr. Browne stated with regard to the withholding of knowledge from him is demonstrably untrue, then the whole case made by Deputy Dr. Browne must fall to the ground. Then this House must face the situation that the case made was made merely to give an opportunity to Deputies like the last Deputy who spoke, to Deputy Cowan and to Deputy Dr. Browne himself to make these bitter personal attacks on the leader of Clann na Poblachta, the Minister for External Affairs.
I suggest that there is in this correspondence evidence that the case made by Deputy Dr. Browne was not a correct and truthful case. I might here, perhaps, refer to the correspondence, but not strictly in the chronological order in which it was issued. I would ask Deputies to examine the terms of the letter written by Deputy Dr. Browne on the 19th of last month and addressed to the Taoiseach. I would suggest to every fair-minded Deputy that that letter of the 19th March is the most important letter in the whole of this correspondence. That letter starts off:
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."
That letter was written on the 19th March. 11 days after the time when, according to Deputy Dr. Browne's own admission. he had received an express and definite indication that such Hierarchical opposition did, in fact, exist. I do not want to weary Deputies by reading the whole of that letter, but I would refer them to the third paragraph of it in the course of which a statement is made of a remarkable nature in view of all the circumstances. I am still quoting from the letter of the 19th March:
"I would like to add, in addition, that, since sending this brochure concerning the mother and child scheme to all the members of the Hierarchy, I have received acknowledgments from a number of the Bishops, including incidentally His Lordship of Galway, who was present at the meeting of 11th October last. In none of these acknowledgments is there any suggestion of an objection to the scheme except in the letter from His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin."
Now, I come to the really important point:
"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."
We have there——
Read the next paragraph.
Deputy Flanagan will have to subside. I will make my speech in my own way.
Deputy Flanagan will have to keep order.
Deputy Flanagan will subside.
I will do what I like.
You will subside and obey order.
Deputy Flanagan will have to keep order and allow Deputy Lehane to make his speech.
We have there the definite statement from Deputy Dr. Browne that, sometime between the 15th March and the 19th March, he was in communication with a member of the Hierarchy who further assured him that, so far as he was aware, there was no objection from the Hierarchy to the mother and child scheme. Now, I am not concerned at this stage with the validity, or otherwise, of the objections. I am concerned with testing the truthfulness of Deputy Dr. Browne in his attitude on this matter, and I suggest to the House that here is a clear and definite way of testing his truthfulness. We have his statement, telling the Taoiseach and, subsequently, telling the public and this House, that sometime between the 15th and the 19th March he has been assured by a member of the Hierarchy that there is no objection to the mother and child scheme.
Do you want him to name the Bishop to make it worse?
I do not suggest that Deputy Dr. Browne should name the Bishop. If that statement be correct, I can quite well understand that the normal man would consider himself bound in confidence not to mention the name. I am dealing with this purely on the basis of fact, purely on the basis of the truthfulness, or otherwise, of the case made by Deputy Dr. Noel Browne, and I would direct the attention of Deputies to this fact from the mouths of the Hierarchy-we have it revealed in the letter to the Taoiseach written on behalf of the Hierarchy—that the decision of the Hierarchy on the 3rd or 4th April was unanimous.
I am not discussing the question of that decision at the moment. I am discussing this matter purely in the light of viewing it as a test of the veracity, or otherwise, of the statement made by Deputy Dr. Noel Browne. I invite Deputies to themselves apply that test to Deputy Dr. Browne's veracity.
Would you like the name?
I would not accept from Deputy Flanagan the name of the Bishop. I think Deputy Flanagan would be most unwise to do so.
I will take your advice.
I think that this is a matter on which, perhaps, Deputy Dr. Browne could enlighten us. I am putting to Deputies two positions: one, a statement that between the 15th and the 19th March he received certain assurances that there was no objection from the Hierarchy, and, on the 5th April, the definite statement from the Hierarchy that there was a unanimous condemnation. Perhaps somebody can explain it, I cannot. There is only one explanation that I can see for it. I am open to accept any other, any more charitable one, but there is only one explanation I can see and that is, that the statement that he had received this assurance between the 15th and the 19th March is not in accordance with the facts. I now pass from that point.
The whole of the case made by Deputy Dr. Browne against the Minister for External Affairs, against the Taoiseach and against his Government colleagues as a whole was that they had knowledge that he was having these difficulties but that that knowledge was withheld from him. I put it to Deputies in a simple way, without embellishment, that if Deputy Dr. Browne can be demonstrated to have made a statement not in accordance with facts in that respect, if his case in that respect is not based on facts, then the whole gravamen of his charge against his colleagues must fall to the ground. That is the keystone of the case. Take that away and there is no case. If that is there and can be established, then perhaps there is a case. Deputy Dr. Browne says that this knowledge was withheld from him. I cannot accept that from Deputy Dr. Browne because, no later than last Sunday-week, in the presence of Deputy Timoney, in the presence of Deputy McQuillan, who now supports Deputy Dr. Browne, in the presence of, I think, two or three other members of this House, in the presence of a member of Seanad Éireann and in the presence of 38 other people, Deputy Dr. Browne admitted, when challenged, that he had been warned on numerous occasions by the Minister for External Affairs that it was desirable that he should get over the difficulties that existed between himself and the Hierarchy in connection with the mother and child scheme.
Was the Deputy surprised to hear that the Minister for Extenrnal Affairs was interested in the expressed wish of the Hierarchy?
The Deputy was surprised to hear Deputy Dr. Browne say in this House in categorical fashion that knowledge was withheld from him when I heard, and other members of this House and other reputable, decent citizens heard, that admission from Deputy Dr. Browne. Were it not for that single fact, I might find considerable difficulty as to how I should approach this whole question. But, having heard that admission from Deputy Dr. Browne, my statement concerning which can be substantiated and will be substantiated in this House, how can I regard his truthfulness when I heard him make the case in this House that he did, basing it on a wilful withholding of knowledge from him by the Minister for External Affairs and by other members of the Government?
Could the Deputy say if he got an assurance from the Minister that if Deputy Dr. Browne was rooted out the Deputy would get the job?
The Deputy does not look for an assurance in respect of jobs; he never hunted for jobs.
Did the Deputy get that promise?
The Deputy can hold up his head, a thing which Deputy Flanagan cannot do. Perhaps it is a case which the Deputy does not want to listen to.
Deputy Flanagan ought to give Deputy Lehane an opportunity of saying what he has to say.
I hope we will hear from Deputy Flanagan, when he is finally convinced, as I believe he will be, of the truth of the statement I am making, a withdrawal of the filthy type of attack he made on the Minister for External Affairs. I appeal to Deputies to judge this matter purely on the basis of who is telling the truth. That is the issue involved here. If half of what Deputy Dr. Browne alleged against the Minister for External Affairs and other members of the Government were true, if half of the statements made by him had a basis in fact, these members of the Government would not be fit to remain in public life. I narrow down this whole issue to the truthfulness or otherwise of the man who is making the charges.
I appeal to Deputy Flanagan to wait and listen to this. Deputy Cowan and Deputy Flanagan attempted to make great capital out of a reference in Deputy Dr. Browne's letter to the Minister for External Affairs. I do not propose to quote the whole of this letter. It is vituperative in tone; it was probably written in a great hurry or else dictated to Deputy Dr. Browne by some pastmaster in Billingsgate. There is, however, a portion of it which I must quote:
"Your letter is a model of the twofaced hypocrisy and humbug so characteristic of you. Your references to a conflict between the spiritual and temporal authorities will occasion a smile..."
He goes on to make a further attack and then says:
"because, among other charges of my political inexperience, I had allowed myself to be photographed with the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin. This puerile bigotry is scarcely calculated to assist the cause of national reunification..."
He added: "which you profess to have at heart."
"Puerile bigotry." What are the facts? The facts are as follows: In an attempt to point out to Deputy Dr. Browne certain respects, and there were many, in which his handling of these many difficult problems had been inept, the Minister for External Affairs dealt with certain matters. In its correct context, the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs was one to which no one could take exception. I was present when it was made. It was made at that executive meeting to which I have already referred. He pointed out to Deputy Dr. Browne that in negotiations with members of the Hierarchy tact and discretion were necessary. He further pointed out to him that when engaged in difficult and delicate negotiations with the Hierarchy and when they had expressed fears as to the implementation of the suggested scheme and had instanced their apprehensions concerning its administration by doctors educated in medical schools in which they declared they had no confidence, that in these circumstances it was, in the opinion of the Minister for External Affairs, both unwise and tactless for Deputy Dr. Browne, then Minister for Health, to have as his principal sponsors—this is with reference to what Deputy Dr. Browne now describes as his last-minute efforts to save the scheme-persons of a faith other than that held by the majority of the people——
You are making it worse—worse and worse.
——and that it was tactless of him, having had what the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin described as a painful interview with His Grace, to be photographed almost immediately afterwards with the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin; that his doing so might be construed as a gesture of defiance.
That is making it worse still.
The advice given on that occasion by the Minister for External Affairs was advice given not in the nature of a charge; it was a pointing-out to Deputy Dr. Browne that tact and discretion were necessary and that any action of his, while perfectly correct and proper in itself, might be so timed as to be capable of misconstruction. To suggest that there was a bigoted attack made then on Deputy Dr. Browne is completely incorrect and is not in accordance with the facts. It is to my mind ludicrous to attempt to level a charge of religious bigotry against the Minister for External Affairs. I know of no man here who has fought religious bigotry more often than he has and who has laid himself open to the cheap sneers and gibes of people who had not his moral courage.
Can the Deputy substantiate that statement now?
Deputy Flanagan should allow Deputy Lehane to make his speech without interruption.
I am just asking Deputy Lehane——
Unless the Deputy is raising a point of order, I will not listen to anything else.
I will leave the House then. I hope the Deputy will be able to proceed without me.
That took place, as I have told the House, on last Sunday week at the executive meeting to which reference has so frequently been made. That executive meeting was one specially summoned by the then Minister for Health, Deputy Dr. Noel Browne—specially summoned, he gave us to understand, in connection with the difficulties he was having over the mother and child scheme. It was summoned by him although there had been an executive meeting held in the previous week from which he had walked out because one single word of criticism concerning his conduct was voiced.
May I say that my experience of the ex-Minister for Health has been that he is constitutionally incapable of listening to criticism. Perhaps that is not anything for which he should be particularly blamed; but I have had the experience of seeing him walk out over a fairly long period, a period of a year or more, from five, if not six, different committee meetings. But at the executive meeting at which this envenomed and bitter attack, according to himself, was made upon him by the Minister for External Affairs—and that meeting lasted until 3 o'clock in the morning—the last business done was to pass a vote of confidence in Seán MacBride, Minister for External Affairs, as Leader of the Party. I do not know what happened between 3 o'clock on that Monday morning and some 48 hours later when Deputy Dr. Browne dictated this vituperative letter. With all the knowledge that he had at 3 o'clock on last Monday morning week of the unwholesome political atmosphere of which he now tells us he was glad to leave, with all his knowledge of the unsavoury attitude of the Minister for External Affairs, with all his knowledge of the cowardice and corruption and treachery now charged against us, his former colleagues, with all his knowledge at 3 o'clock on last Monday morning week when all these matters had been thrashed out, Deputy Dr. Browne subscribed to a vote of confidence in the Minister for External Affairs as Leader of Clann na Poblachta.
The Deputy seems to be travelling very far.
I am dealing with issues raised here by Deputy Flanagan in the course of his speech. I have no wish to widen the scope of this debate. I am dealing with matters specifically referred to by Deputy Flanagan. He referred to Deputy Dr. Browne's release from the corrupt and unwholesome political atmosphere in which he had been cribbed, cabin'd and confined for the past three years. In addition to that, the last words of Deputy Dr. Browne at that executive meeting were an undertaking to his colleagues that he would deny and publish the following day a denial of the truth of newspaper statements suggesting that he was dissatisfied with the leadership of the Party to which he then belonged, and that he was completely loyal to it and accepted the consequences of that loyalty.
This seems to me to deal with internal difficulties in the Party.
I agree, but it is difficult when one has sat and listened here to the unbridled and unlicensed attack made on the Minister for External Affairs by Deputy Flanagan, by Deputy Captain Cowan and by Deputy Dr. Noel Browne the other day not to refer to these matters if only for the purpose of putting in issue his credibility and his truthfulness. At the risk of incurring censure from the Chair for repetition, let me say that the issue is as to who is telling the truth, that and nothing else. If the case made by Deputy Dr. Browne against his colleagues is true, then they are not worthy of support, not worthy of my defence or the defence of any Deputy; but if it is not the true case, if it is based on falsehood, what must one think of the person making it? Perhaps the circumstances surrounding Deputy Dr. Browne's position are overworked and there may be an explanation, but I take my stand and I am prepared to stand or fall on this issue, as to whether in fact Deputy Dr. Browne in his correspondence and in his statement to the House is telling the truth or not. He denies that he had knowledge of the difficulties being raised by the Hierarchy. On that alone I must condemn him, because in my presence—I do not think he was in the House when I mentioned this before and I now repeat it as he is here—Deputy Dr. Browne admitted that on several occasions he had been warned and reminded by the Minister for External Affairs that it was essential that the existing differences with the Hierarchy should be surmounted, resolved or settled.
I turn now to two paragraphs in the statement made here by the Deputy on the 12th of this month. I think they have a bearing on the matters to which I have just referred. In the course of his references to his interview which he had with the Archbishop of Dublin on the 10th October, he says—I quote from Volume 125, column 669:—
" At the conclusion of this interview, I was under the impression, erroneously as it now appears, that His Grace and their Lordships were satisfied with my explanation of the scheme."
"Erroneously as it now appears "— he is prepared to admit in so far as the Hierarchy are concerned that his interpretation of what took place was erroneous. He is not prepared to extend that charity to his former colleagues. But at column 670 he again touches on this question of knowledge. He says:—
"As I heard nothing further about the matter from either the Hierarchy or the Taoiseach until a couple of weeks ago, I had no reason to believe that the Hierarchy were not fully satisfied, and the work of preparing for the introduction of the mother and child scheme continued."
"Until a couple of weeks ago"—I do not want to comment on the discrepancy, but there is even a discrepancy there. On the correspondence which he himself discloses, it was five weeks prior to the 12th April that he received the letter dated 8th March from the Archbishop of Dublin.
That speech was not an extempore one. It was not a speech in which a Deputy, speaking in the House as I am speaking now, has to search around for the appropriate word as he progresses; but that phrase, that sentence, "As I heard nothing further about the matter from either the Hierarchy or the Taoiseach until a couple of weeks ago, I had no reason to believe that the Hierarchy were not fully satisfied", was read by the Deputy from a typewritten document—which, I presume, was carefully prepared.
I am mentioning these matters, not with reference to the issues involved in the objections, not with reference to the Deputy's attitude to the Hierarchy or the Hierarchy's attitude to him; I am mentioning them purely so that the House might examine them and from that examination arrive at a judgment as to Deputy Dr. Browne's credibility.
Great play has been made by Deputies Flanagan and Cowan, and great comment has been made outside, with considerable truth, of the harm that has been done to the whole national position with regard to the removal of the Border and the ending of Partition by this whole question. I concur in the view that grave and tragic harm has been done, but I ask Deputies to consider at whose door must the responsibility for that be laid. I suggest that it can be laid only at the door of Deputy Dr. Noel Browne. I would have tremendous respect for him, though I might disagree with him, knowing all the background, as I knew it from the meeting on Sunday week last, if he had resigned from Clann na Poblachta, made as aggressive an attack as he wished on the Minister for External Affairs and the rest of us, but at the same time had kept that correspondence and those documents from the public Press. If he had done that, I might have been unable to agree with him but I would have had to go to him and say: "You have earned my undying respect because of your willingness to allow yourself to be placed, perhaps, in a false position rather than jeopardise the whole national position." But he did not see fit to take that line, he published that correspondence, he delighted the heart of Westmoreland Street in the person of the Editor of the Irish Times, he delighted the bigoted junta in Stormont who act there as Britain's “emergency men”, he left it possible for the Midgleys and the others to quote, with approval, Deputy Dr. Browne, former Minister for Health in the Government of the Republic of Ireland, and to adduce his words as proof of the correctness of their attitude in opposing the reunification of the country.
Boiling it all down, I think that there is more reality and more depth in that complaint against the former Minister for Health than, perhaps, there is in many of the others. That is something for which, I am afraid, I and many others like me can never forgive him. Admittedly, it might have been a hard thing, it might have been a difficult thing to endure, perhaps, what he might consider misrepresentation, that is, if he had the case which he makes. It might have been a difficult thing to suffer on and be misrepresented, but I think that the former Minister for Health is intelligent and able enough and, in spite of what has been said about his inexperience, experienced enough to have known, when he handed that correspondence to the newspapers, that he handed a weapon to those who wished to perpetuate the Partition of this country.
May I make this parenthetical comment also, that between the time that he was subscribing to votes of loyalty to the leadership of his Party, and the time when that voluminous correspondence was handed to the Press, so short a period elapsed that, in my view, it would have been impossible to prepare it for the Press and I am forced to conclude—I am reinforced in this by another piece of evidence—that at the very time he sat at our councils discussing this situation, that correspondence, that treacherous correspondence, that harmful correspondence, was in the course of preparation for handing out to the newspapers.
With regard to the mother and child scheme itself, let me say this. I would have infinitely preferred, had it been possible, to see introduced a mother and child scheme which was free for all and without a means test, but Deputy Dr. Browne, by the three reasons which he gave for his resignation, puts me in the position that I must pose to him this question: what alternative course did he want us to pursue? If he is critical of the course pursued by us, then it can only be that he suggests that we should have gone ahead and that the Government should have gone ahead with the mother and child scheme free for all without a means test, irrespective of the Hierarchical pronouncements against it. That is the only alternative. If he is critical of us, he must be critical of us on that basis. I am no moral theologian, like Deputy Captain Peadar Cowan, who is an expert in all the sciences and an adornment of all the arts. I am no theologian. All I know is this. I am sorry that the position has arisen that we cannot have such a scheme.
As an ordinary commonsense Deputy, I realise that in the existing situation and circumstances—circumstances created largely by the handling of the situation by the former Minister for Health—it would have been a practical impossibility for us as a Party or for the Government as a Government to implement that scheme. I believe that once there was a condemnation by the Hierarchy of the mother and child scheme as proposed by Dr. Noel Browne we were bound to submit some alternative scheme. I charge against Deputy Dr. Browne not with any vindictiveness—certainly without any malice—that it was his manner of handling the situation that allowed a position to develop, where this inevitable head on collision between the civil Government and the Catholic Hierarchy developed. Had he looked at the matter in this wise that it were better that some mother and child scheme should be introduced rather than none at all, I think that he and we would be happier men to-day than we are. He did not choose to take that view. He chose, in my opinion, to make a fetish out of a phrase with the result that that medical attention and care, which all of us desire for mothers and children, is not now available.
I have very little more to add beyond saying that the references made to the Minister for External Affairs and the comparison made between the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Health by Deputy Flanagan, will carry very little weight throughout this country. The people know the service given to this country by the Minister for External Affairs as plain Seán MacBride, as a volunteer in the I.R.A. against the Tans in defence of the Republic, during the Civil War and in the Republican movement ever since, Seán MacBride, son of a republican father and mother, a father who gave his life to found an Irish Republic, needs no defence from mountebanks nor does he suffer by comparison with the Dr. Noel Brownes.
I will just say a word or two with regard to the matters which have been introduced into this discussion. It does seem to me, from what we have heard to-night, that the real issue that is before this House and before the country is not an issue as to whether a statement contained in a letter of Deputy Dr. Browne or anybody else may be accurate or not, but as it was rather more clearly drawn by Deputy Cowan in his remarks to the House here to-night.
He raised the issue of the right of the Catholic Hierarchy to express a view on a matter concerning faith and morals, which it is their duty to protect. He denied them that right and that is the issue, surely, which is raised by the events which led to the resignation of Deputy Dr. Browne from his post as Minister for Health. On that issue, we have heard no remark, no comment and no contribution good, bad, or indifferent, from the Opposition in this House——
The less said the better.
——though it was they who introduced into this House and had enacted the Health Act of 1947 under which this entire deplorable situation arose. It was the leader of the Opposition who first received the criticism of the Hierarchy with regard to the proposals for sex education contained in that Act. That criticism, received by the former Government in the month of October, 1947, was not even acknowledged until 16th February, 1948, two days before they left office. I charge them with this, that they knew well that this situation would face Deputy Dr. Browne in his enthusiasm and in his energy to perfect the health services of the country, and I charge that they deliberately handed that situation over to the incoming Government when they knew that it need never have arisen if they had met the very real and practical objections of the Catholic Hierarchy to anything in the nature of radical medical notions being introduced here.
They have had no comment and no contribution to make to this debate as to whether the Hierarchy have any right to express a view on a matter which will vitally affect the life of every individual in the country. It is very easy in a matter of this kind to be intellectual, to play the intellectual rôle, and very easy to tilt at windmills and to say that the Bishops were wrong and that they have been wrong before. I am a simple man and I have a simple faith, and I will express a simple view; where the faith and morals of 95 per cent. of our people are concerned, I do not care twopence if it offends to the core of his soul, Bertie Smyllie of the Irish Times or any of the rest of them, I will accept it as proper that the Bishops and members of the Hierarchy of this country are entitled to express their view at any time, and far more certain is it that they should express that view when asked to do so by the Minister in charge of the scheme under discussion.
May I say that, in my view, this is not a matter confined purely to those of us in the House or in the country who are Catholics, because I should be appalled to think that, on a matter so important as this, there would be any difference whatever between the Christian churches of this country? I am quite certain and quite convinced that the Rev. Dr. Barton and any other member of the Protestant Hierarchy here would hold the same view and express the same opinion with regard to an important matter of Christian social teaching. Those of us who are parents know that there is a duty on every one of us to see to the care and well-being of our wives and children, and, so far as we can, by our own resources, to ensure for them all the care we can afford and the best we can give them. That is the issue.
Surely when that is a clear duty imposed on all Christians and on all citizens, an authority like the Hierarchy of any Church, indeed, is entitled to say that, in the case of a man of unlimited means, a man whose resources are beyond the average or normal, if you provide a form of State medicine—and this was State medicine, no matter what it is called—you are going to put before him a temptation to neglect the duty cast upon him and fail to live up to his obligations. That is a fundamental objection. It may be an academic objection and it may be theoretical, so far as many of us are concerned, but the more academic and the more theoretical it may be, the easier surely it was to meet it.
I say that the issue raised by the resignation of Deputy Dr. Browne is the right of the Irish Hierarchy to express a view on a matter which they regard as fundamental. That being the issue and that view having been expressed, this House is asked to consider what should be the effect on those members of the Government or of the House who profess to be practising Catholics. At least one newspaper circulating in this country has suggested, with venom, that in Ireland in 1951 it is criminal for the Taoiseach or member of this Government to practise his beliefs as a Catholic. I wonder if that view would be shared by many more than the single individual who wrote these words of venom. Many of my friends who are good Christians but who are not of my religion are men whose words and views I would accept anywhere, and I know from them that, no matter what the cost or the gain might be, they would never act in private or in public life contrary to the views and beliefs which they have held from the cradle.
I know well that our Protestant fellow-citizens in this country, with regard to the many things they hold dear and in respect of which they express and hold a Christian faith, would never depart from those principles or act contrary to them no matter what the cost or the gain might be. Are we to suggest in a Parliament of this country that two different standards of value should apply? Are we to suggest that the Catholic, in a matter of this kind, is to be bound to act contrary to his faith while the same rule and the same view is not to be held with regard to members of other religions? Nobody, apart from the editor of the Irish Times, would hold that view—and he knows very well that his views are not shared by any of his co-religionists and that they regard him as the “nigger in the wood-pile” who is causing irreparable damage to them and to this nation.
As so much has been said about the issue which is before this House and the country, and as views have been expressed as to whether the scheme should be free for all, or otherwise, may I say that I do not see why this Parliament should sanction any legislation or implement any scheme which will tax the poor in order to provide free medical services for the rich. I do not see why the rich readers of select newspapers in this country should have conferred on them, as a result of taxes imposed on the old age pensioners and the less well off, the benefits of a free medical service. I can only challenge the motives of anyone who would suggest that any such scheme should commend itself to this country.
I should like to know, from any person who supports a free for all scheme, what it would mean here in this city. What would happen to the beds and the other services at present provided for the poor people in Holles Street Hospital and in the Rotunda Hospital? Are they to be made available to the richer sections of our population? Surely, before anyone would suggest a scheme of that nature, his first concern should be to ensure that the interests of the poor will not suffer. His first concern should be to provide beds for all. If, in this month, as was suggested, this scheme had been put into operation, then I say that the interests of the poorer people in this city would have been immediately affected. Instead of Mrs. Jones, from Deputy MacEntee's constituency, sharing a bed with Lady Diana, Lady Diana would have the bed.
You know both, do you?
I do. I am happy to be a man who knows all people and I am glad to say that both of them say "How are you?" to me. That is the issue with regard to the practical effect of a scheme of this nature. It would impose unfair and immoral taxes on a poorer section of the community in order to provide a facility for the better off and the rich —a facility which they can well afford to pay for themselves. In addition, the scheme would bring immediate hardship to the poorer sections because it would deprive them of a service which they enjoy at present.
One of my colleagues from my constituency said that he was prepared to advocate everywhere in his constituency a free for all mother and child welfare scheme. These are easy words. I should like to know from him whether he would make that speech in the town of Abbeyleix or in any other town where certain services are at present provided for the less well off sections of his constituents. It is easy to advocate schemes of this kind, but it is rather a pity that those who express these sentiments do not devote more time and energy to the provision, first of all, of machinery whereby such a scheme could operate. Much as we can respect Deputy Dr. Browne's work and all that he has done—and his enthusiasm and energy as Minister for Health always has had and always will have my admiration and respect—and much as we can praise him for all that has gone before, we must, nevertheless, regard the issue involved here as being far greater than any individual, be he Deputy Dr. Browne or anyone else.
On a point of order, might I ask how long this discussion will be allowed to continue?
This particular debate will close at 11 o'clock.
Is there a possibility that Deputy Dr. Browne will be allowed to reply?
I gave Deputy Dr. Browne every chance. I looked towards him almost every time anybody offered. I told Deputy Dr. Browne that I should endeavour to give him an opportunity to speak. I thought that he would offer himself. I should have been glad to have given him an opportunity earlier.
There is still time.
The debate may be resumed on another motion.
How long does Deputy Dr. Browne require?
Only a very short while —about ten minutes.
I do not know the intention of the Government——
I will give way to Deputy Dr. Browne.
We will hear the Tánaiste. We should love to hear the Tánaiste.
I shall be very brief for the simple reason that there is very little that I need add to the statement which I gave to the House on this whole matter. A few points were made by the Taoiseach during the course of his first speech which might have left, either consciously or unconsciously, an impression which would give rise to certain misapprehensions and I should like to deal with these points very briefly because I think it only fair that, in relation to them, I should clear my position.
The Taoiseach states that he helped me on a previous occasion on which I had got into trouble with the Hierarchy. Now, this previous occasion to which the Taoiseach refers arose as a result of a policy which I was pursuing and there are absolutely no unsavoury implications whatsoever despite, I am afraid, the Taoiseach's intention to convey that impression. As part of my policy in relation to the staffing of hospitals arose the problem as to whether they should be staffed completely by nuns or completely by nurses. I had taken the view that a local authority when considering the staff who would run a hospital ought to give the maximum opportunity to the staff to reach the top, to reach the most senior posts, and that the hospital should be staffed either completely by nuns or completely by nurses.
At that time representations were made and the Taoiseach forwarded to me that letter. I believe that it is to this incident and to this letter he is now referring. I am completely unashamed of the contents of that letter as I saw it and I feel that it is the Taoiseach's duty to publish that letter in order that there may be no misapprehensions in anybody's mind that I had got into trouble with any group, with any responsible or influential section of the community arising out of my policy in relation to the staffing of hospitals.
The Taoiseach ridiculed me when I suggested that £30,000 might be made available without a Cabinet decision. Some ten days or a fortnight ago the Minister for Finance admitted in the Seanad that the mother and child health protection scheme would cost £1,800,000 when it would be in full operation. Without Government consideration of the details of the scheme but on his own consideration of the details put forward by my Department, the Minister for Finance—after the usual long tussle which goes on in these matters in Government circles— on his own authority, realising that on its basic principles the scheme would be free to all anxious to use it and would have no means test, gave me authority to go ahead with the drawing up, introduction and implementation of a scheme to cost £1,800,000 when it would be in full operation.
That was the action of this experienced Minister—they accused me of inexperience. He did not consider it necessary at that time to go to the Government for its consideration of this very considerable sum. A little while ago he changed his mind, as my statement showed, and suggested that this serious fundamental matter of principle, this £30,000 which I recently asked for, should be considered by the Government, this in spite of the fact that a year and a half earlier he had given me authority to draw up, introduce and implement a scheme which would when in full operation cost £1,800,000.
The Taoiseach suggests that nobody knew of the scheme and said (column 738):—
"The first time I personally heard of it was when a copy of the scheme was given to me by a person outside the Government."
He then says later on (column 753):—
"That was the way in which we got the document—the alleged scheme, a booklet which the then Minister for Health ‘is about to introduce'."
He also said in another place that each member of the Government for his information was given a copy of the draft proposals of the scheme—three different places, three different ways in which he first heard of the scheme. He said he knew nothing of the scheme; he criticises its merits. His right as a barrister to do this might be questioned. If he knew nothing of the scheme, if his colleagues knew nothing of the scheme, then could he explain how he authorised me, as I have said, to go ahead with the preparation of the draft proposals, to negotiate on those proposals and to submit them to the Medical Association the best part of a year ago? Deputy Dr. O'Higgins negotiated on those proposals; the Tánaiste negotiated on those proposals; the Taoiseach negotiated on those proposals himself. Deputy Dillon very kindly wrote to me some time in September last and said in his own inimitable script:
I am 100 per cent. for the mother and child scheme."
He then asked me if I could reassure him about certain points—unimportant points of detail. All these Ministers were at different times pressing on the Medical Association a scheme which the Taoiseach now says he knew so little about.
There has been no attempt whatsoever to disapprove a number of points. One is that under the 1947 Act passed by the then Government authority was given to introduce a free scheme for which there would be no means test, and the only way in which it would be possible to introduce a scheme by which local authorities could collect fees and impose a means test would be by the amendment of the 1947 Act. I put that proposal before the Government in 1948 and pointed out to them that if they wanted a scheme which would not be free to all and which would have a means test they must amend that Act. The section containing that suggestion headed my draft to the Government. They directed me as a Government decision to exclude from my proposed draft Bill the section which would have enabled them now to charge for this scheme if they so wished. It was a Government direction to strike out that enabling clause. I was asked in the Cabinet if I wanted to charge for the scheme I said: "No, but if you want powers to do so you must take them now." I said that they must take powers in the next few weeks if they wanted to charge for the scheme.
The Taoiseach makes a point that I, following the decision of the Hierarchy, asked were they proposing to go ahead with this scheme. The fact, of course, is that the decision of 1948 was never rescinded. It was a Government decision, solemnly taken in Cabinet and, although inexperienced in these matters, I am aware that once a Government decision is taken it must, or it should be in proper procedure, rescinded. It was rescinded only last Friday week, following the receipt of the letter from the Hierarchy. That was the mechanics of that operation. In accordance with that, I might say that my question to their Lordships was: Is this contrary to Catholic moral teaching? The reply, as you all know, was that it is contrary to Catholic social teaching. I was not aware—the Taoiseach can verify this-until I had asked each member of the Cabinet separately what he proposed to do, what he had been given to understand by Dr. McQuaid when that decision was taken. He then told us that that morning he had been informed by Dr. McQuaid that Catholic social teaching and Catholic moral teaching were one and the same thing.
The Taoiseach, number two, does not deny that he withheld or suppressed the document sent to him by me on November 11th or 12th. He makes no attempt, in spite of all the legalistic verbiage with which he wants to surround that incident. The fact remains that he put it in his drawer, on his desk, in his pocket, but he did not send it to their Lordships the Hierarchy, and that was one of my charges.
His recollection of the meeting of the 12th October was that he could not corroborate what I had felt myself, that a satisfactory conclusion had been arrived at. I have said that he denies corroborating that impression now, but he does not assert, even now, that following that meeting with His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, he told me they were dissatisfied with my scheme, or the Government scheme at that time. He makes no such assertion even now. He merely states that he could not corroborate the impressions I had received.
In relation to the publication of all these documents, the matter arose at the final Cabinet meeting at which the Tánaiste asked if he could convey all these matters to his own Party. The Taoiseach said he could; it was now, so far as he was aware, at the point where everybody had to know the facts. He then turned to me and he said : "You may publish what you like, Dr. Browne," and left it at that. I accepted that decision as a decision that I could go ahead and publish all the documents in the case, so that the facts might be available to everybody concerned.
The Taoiseach makes a small point that I have not pursued—the question of eliminating compulsory clauses in the 1947 Act. I felt these were as important to me as to the Taoiseach and Deputy Dillon. The fact is that proposals for the repeal of these compulsory clauses are at present on the Paper and the Taoiseach may bring them forward for discussion at his convenience.
I do not want to import any heat or anger into this debate. I want merely to set the situation in the perspective in which I see it.
Let me, before I proceed, say at once that the Taoiseach never gave me permission to publish the documents. I merely asked was it at that stage permissible to show the letter of the Bishops of the 5th April to members of my Party. I never sought permission to publish the letter; I did not get permission to publish it and, so far as Deputy Dr. Browne is concerned, he got permission to show the letter; he did not get permission to publish that letter and all the other documents which he also released for public consumption. Permission was given only to show the letter, not to publish it. It was never published by me and Deputy Dr. Browne exceeded by far any authority he got from the Taoiseach by his publication, indiscriminately, of the entire correspondence on this matter. I mention that to clear up that inaccuracy.
I think this position has to be put in its proper setting. Deputy Cowan touched off the situation to-day. Deputy Cowan took the line that this was dictation from the Bishops. That is the issue which has been raised in this matter so far. That is the issue which is being raised so far by Deputy Cowan. Deputy Cowan says this is dictation by the Bishops. Deputy Dr. Browne was very close to that attitude as well and, if he has changed, he has changed because of a realistic approach by him to the fact that that is an unsustainable line of action in this country.
That is completely untrue.
Let me tell you the facts, of which apparently you are not aware.
That is a deliberate attempt to misrepresent Deputy Dr. Browne's position in this House.
Let me tell you the facts, of which apparently you are not aware. Then I will let the House and the country judge the situation. On Wednesday of last week I was sitting here in these benches during the Second Stage of the Social Welfare Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government, Deputy Corish, was beside me. Deputy Dr. Browne, Minister for Health, as he then was, came in and said to me: "Did you hear the decision of the Bishops?" I said: "No; I have been here since three o'clock, I have not been outside at all.""Well," he said, "the Bishops have not turned down my scheme on the basis of faith and morals, but they have turned it down on the basis of Catholic social teaching." It seemed to me, from that, that that was a condemnation of the scheme.
Surely this is a private conversation which ought not to be retailed in this fashion to the House?
What about the time you took the official file to Mallow and read it and you were kicked in the posterior by your Leader for doing so?
We are not talking about me; we are talking about the Tánaiste retailing a private conversation in this House, a most dishonourable thing.
This is a deliberate attempt to take up the time of the House.
Can you not let the editor of the Irish Times do that propaganda?
We have stood you for long enough.
On that occasion Deputy Dr. Browne said he still felt, notwithstanding the letter of 5th April which he got from the Bishops, that he could go ahead with the scheme—he still felt it. He told it to me, sitting here, and Deputy Corish was a witness. So that, on the Wednesday night of last week, notwithstanding the Bishops' letter, Dr. Browne said he could still go ahead with his scheme, in spite of the strictures which had been passed on the scheme by the Bishops. I warned him not to do it, that he was heading straight for disaster, and that he was unwise to pursue that matter. Two days afterwards, at the Government meeting, as if it was still permissible to do so, he asked were the members of the Government going ahead with this scheme, as if that was then discussable, as if that was then possible, as if the issue being raised by him was a question: "Will you or will you not defy the Bishops?" and he threw that question into the arena as something which could be decided by a decision on the part of the Government to flout the authority of the Bishops in the matter of Catholic social teaching.
When you remember what he said to me and to Deputy Corish, sitting here on the Wednesday night, that he could still go ahead with the scheme and wanted to go ahead with the scheme in spite of the Bishops' condemnation of the scheme, when you remember the question which he put two days afterwards to the members of the Government: "Are you going ahead with my scheme?", is it not clear that in the mind of Dr. Browne at that time he contemplated a situation which Deputy Cowan contemplated here this evening, that he regarded this as dictation by the Bishops and he was going to fight the Bishops? That was the attitude then. I want to put that position of Dr. Browne's clearly and closely to his statement that he was misled on this whole business and I will come back to the "misleading" portion again.
If this question is raised as one in which the Bishops are to be on one side and the Government on the other side, I say, on behalf of the Government, that issue is not going to arise in this country. This Government will not, travel that road. Deputy Cowan may regard that as an issue upon which he is going to fight.
That is not the issue, and the Tánaiste knows it perfectly well, here to-night.
You had an opportunity and will have an opportunity, perhaps, of participating in this debate.
I wish to God I had.
Maybe it can be provided. Deputy Cowan has thrown up by his own questions here this evening the issue of the Bishops on one side and the Government on the other side. I say the Government will not allow that situation to arise, that there will be no flouting of the authority of the Bishops in the matter of Catholic social or Catholic moral teaching and if anybody imagines that defiance of the Bishops in this matter is to give liberty to the masses of the people then let him look at other countries where the moral law and Catholic social teaching has been defied and there he will find that the workers or the masses of the people have got very little liberty, very little of the liberty that was promised them when they abandoned adherence to, or recognition of, the moral law.
If that issue of the Bishops versus the Government has been raised acutely in this controversy, it has been raised in a special way by the manner in which Dr. Browne has handled this whole question. Let me say this: All along through these long and tortuous negotiations, I endeavoured to give to Dr. Browne every scrap of assistance that I could, in order to help him to overcome whatever difficulties were thrown in his path, whatever difficulties arose because of the approach to the problem by the doctors on the one hand and by the knowledge that before we came into office at all, in 1947, the Bishops of this country had written to the then Taoiseach, Deputy de Valera now, telling him that, in their view, the provisions of the 1947 Act gave offence to Catholic moral teachings.
That was a problem which we inherited from 1947. That was a problem which we found awaiting us when we went into office. That problem was there. Dr. Browne, as the Minister charged with the implementation of the Health Act, 1947, must have known, from the first day he took office, that he was already in difficulties with the Health Act because the Bishops had left no doubt as to their attitude in respect of that Act by the letter which they sent to the Taoiseach at that time. So that from the time he took office, he was already fixed with notice that he was in difficulties with the 1947 Act, in particular in difficulties with the mother and child section of the Act, and that all along he would have to be very careful to ensure that any scheme he produced was one which would not bring him into conflict with the Church on the question of Catholic moral teachings.
In October last, the Bishops sent a letter to the Taoiseach, a copy of which was read by the Taoiseach when he spoke on the matter in this House. It was clear to anybody reading that letter that the Bishops were gravely perturbed at that time about the possible emergence of a mother and child scheme which, in their view, would be contrary to Catholic teaching. From the date of the receipt of that letter, by negotiations with the doctors on the one hand and the Hierarchy on the other hand, we endeavoured to avoid the rocks which we saw were confronting the Minister for Health, and on which it looked at times as if he had made up his mind definitely to founder.
In all that period, the Minister for External Affairs, the Minister for Defence, Deputy O'Higgins, the Taoiseach himself, the Minister for Agriculture and myself, in various ways, at various times, did everything we could to endeavour to induce Dr. Browne to handle this matter calmly, to handle this matter with sagacity, not to push matters to a crisis and, if he wanted to get the goodwill of the Hierarchy on the one hand, and the goodwill of the doctors who must be relied upon to implement a scheme of this kind, not to push matters to the crisis stage, to avoid having a head-on collision. Time after time we came in to endeavour to avoid that head-on collision which at times I felt he was looking for.
I had endless talks with Dr. Browne on this matter—endless talks. Never once in the whole period was there a cross word between him and me on the matter. I saw his difficulties and I warned him against those difficulties. Could Deputy MacEntee find a circus outside town, where his services would be badly needed?
I was wondering why the Government did not amend the Act if it had all these defects in it.
Do not be silly.
Why did not the Government amend the 1947 Act? You have a majority in the House.
He is only appealing for the Protestant votes.
They are just as good as some of yours.
Of course, they are. You are making sure you will get them.
They count for the same as you do.
I was saying that in all this business we endeavoured to induce Dr. Browne to approach the matter calmly, to approach it with sagacity, to realise that, if he could not get his whole scheme——
——at the one time, he ought to take the best he could at this stage, if necessary, getting what he regarded as perfection in progressive instalments. Dr. Browne was counselled that he should approach this matter in such a manner as would not irritate the doctors on the one hand and would not give offence to the Hierarchy on the other.
Why did not the Taoiseach send Dr. Browne's reply to the Hierarchy? Why did he hold it for four months?
The Taoiseach answered that but it can be answered again, if the Deputy wants, and if there is time available, before this debate is over. I will answer it again. But let me say this, if this matter had been handled with tact, with understanding and with forbearance by the Minister responsible, I believe we would not have had the situation which has been brought about to-day.
The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 18th April, 1951.