This is the question of "emergency," and my recollection is that Deputy Cowan was making a constitutional point in this regard. The distinction which I sought to make on the last occasion—and, if my recollection is right, I went into it in some detail—is that in the Constitution there is general provision for an emergency and the declaration of a state of emergency, under Article 28, and legislation here cannot go beyond the field defined by Article 28. That refers to a national emergency embracing the whole national fabric. What we have to deal with in this section and in this Bill is a more localised type of emergency. If one could find a suitable word to make the distinction clear, it might be desirable to use it in this Bill. We are dealing here with a localised emergency affecting the armed forces only. The circumstances of that emergency would have relation to an emergency of a wider nature, but the action to be taken in the emergency referred to in this section would refer only to peoplewho come within the scope of this Bill.
Therefore, I think the point Deputy Cowan is seeking to make in regard to the Constitution is not well founded. The provision in the section can go no further than the armed forces and simply enables an alerting of the forces. When all is said and done, what is involved is that the Government may declare that an emergency exists, within the meaning of this Bill and for the purposes of this Bill. Following on that, they are empowered under the Bill to take certain specific steps regarding people who come within the law as defined by the Bill. That may mean calling up a reserve or taking certain other action in preparing the armed forces. That is not in any sense putting the nation as a whole into a state of emergency, which is what is envisaged by Article 28 of the Constitution.
It is obviously important that a Government should have power to act immediately. Without going over the whole ground again, but looking quickly over the report of what I said on the last occasion here, I may say it is obviously necessary that the Government should be in a position to act rapidly, whether in aid of the civil power or in case of a national emergency, and put its own forces in a state of preparation to meet any such emergency as may arise. That is quite clear, from the military point of view, the overall national defence point of view.
Let us hark back, say, to the experience of 1939—an experience that may well confront us again some time in the future—where the international situation is getting more and more threatening; the Government with its responsibility feels that the time has come to make certain preparations; the situation is not clear enough yet to warrant an all-out emergency over the whole country but some preparations must be made. It is to meet that type of case that this section was primarily drafted.
Let us go back again a little more specifically to 1939. In the early months of 1939 it became obvious—in fact, from about October, 1938—that there was a real threat of war in the offing. In theearly months of 1939 the Government of the day did not declare an emergency or anything like it or take any emergency steps under the legislation empowering them at that time. They did make certain preparations, there was a reorganisation of the reserve and efforts were accelerated and intensified to get equipment and to reorganise the Defence Forces. The Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Agriculture acted also in regard to essential supplies, to some extent. All that was mere normal precaution. But that was not enough. From about 1st July onwards, the situation became really threatening and then in September war actually broke out in Europe. That war broke out in a localised kind of way and would merely bring about an emergency of the type contemplated in this section. It was not a national emergency in the sense that an immediate threat lay, with necessity for mobilising the whole resources of the State to meet it. The war as it broke out between Germany and Poland, with the consequent entry of the other Powers that came in, was still remote enough to leave it as a restricted emergency. The result was that the Government then used powers to mobilise the Reserve and take other precautionary steps. That was a good deal short of the all-out type of national emergency that was considered in the Constitution and invoked very shortly afterwards. I am referring to the steps taken just before the declaration of the emergency in the full sense. It was obviously desirable that the Government should have power to do that. Later, it had to go the whole hog with regard to declaring an emergency. Some provision for that kind of situation should be provided, from a general defence point of view.
There is, then, the other aspect which I mentioned previously and which rather irritated Deputy MacEoin when I referred to it—the possibility of internal disturbance. The Government, no matter what Government it is, is charged with the responsibility of maintaining order within the State and maintaining the constitutional framework of the State. If it should happen in this country, as has happened inmany other countries, that there should be such an organised threat to the institutions of the State or to the internal order of the State that the ordinary police authorities were not likely to deal with it, and there was in fact something approaching an emergency, the Government should be in a position to act and to act quickly.
I gave an example and the spirit in which I gave it was somewhat misinterpreted. It was an example, however, but looking at it completely objectively—and that is the best way— let us take a hypothetical Government in the future, a Government in which none of us—Deputy MacEoin, Deputy Collins or myself—is interested. It is obviously desirable that that Government should have that power. I think there is a slight misappreciation of the position due to the use of the word "emergency." This in no way conflicts with the provisions of the Constitution and applies merely for the purposes of this Act, and, from the point of view of national defence as against an external aggressor, this power is needed on the ground that the Government should be in a position to act quickly, especially in modern times, should be in a position to make adequate preparations and should have, so to speak, a half-way house in these uncertain situations which can arise preparatory to actual hostilities of being able to declare or arrange for a restrictive emergency. These are two considerations which seem to be dictated by common sense and for these reasons they should have the power.
Thirdly, from the point of view of internal order, it would seem an extravagant and unnecessary upset of our national life that if such an internal threat as I have tried to indicate broadly were to arise, we should have to put the whole nation straight away in a state of siege to deal with it. The approach should, and with any normal Government, would be—as it was the approach of the Government in the case to which I referred previously—to try to keep life going normally, to maintain a "business as usual" attitude, while at the same time taking the necessary steps to deal with that threat of disorder. On thesethree grounds—I differ from Deputy Cowan in these instances, although we are in agreement on a large number of other things—I think the section should stand.