Committee on Finance. - Defence Bill, 1951—Report Stage.

Debate resumed on the following amendment:—
8. In page 16 to delete Section 4 (1), lines 47 to 49, and substitute:—
(1) The Government, a motion specifically authorising them to do so having first been passed by Dáil Éireann, may by Order under this sub-section declare that a state of emergency exists for the period mentioned in the motion authorising the declaration.—(Deputy Cowan.)

When this matter was adjourned a couple of days ago I was in possession and I had spoken for approximately half an hour in regard to it. I do not know whether it is a fact but I understand this Bill will be ordered for to-morrow. Is that right?

That is right.

If the House wants me to continue speaking on this amendment I will be prepared to do so but I do think, at the end of a tiring day and as we have only 25 minutes, it might be left over until to-morrow morning. I do not know what Deputy MacBride is laughing at.

He is laughing at the conceit of Deputy Cowan.

It is not conceit. I am asking the House——

We will hear what you have to say.

This is a very important amendment. I have already spoken for half an hour; if the House wants me to speak for 25 minutes I will certainly do so, but I think it might be left over for discussion to-morrow.

You may speak for another 25 minutes to-morrow.

Will the House go on its knees and beg the Deputy to carry on?

I suggest this is a bigger House than the Deputy will have to-morrow.

The only point about this particular Bill is that there are roughly 206 amendments, of which approximately 200 are mine. I have gone to quite an amount of trouble in dealing with it and I object to the Bill coming forward at 11.5 at night in a session that finishes at 11.30 p.m. I think I am entitled to consideration to the extent that we might have started at seven, eight or nine o'clock. There is a cruel streak in regard to matters such as this. There are times when the House would consider reasonably the attitude of a Deputy who is dealing with an amendment to a Bill.

I would like to say that I am not against the Deputy's suggestion but it is in the hands of the House.

I know it is entirely in the hands of the House and the House might be reasonable. I do not mind; I will continue for 20 minutes.

Would the House not agree to adjourn now?

Deputies

No.

It is not a bad spell from 2 p.m. until 11 p.m.

There is no point in our sitting down as representatives from Parties deciding to sit from 2 p.m. until 11.30 p.m. and having a certain amount of business ordered for the day, if we are going to conclude at 11.10 p.m.

It must be remembered that we finished the business earlier than was expected last night. We were supposed to sit until 12 midnight but we got through our business so expeditiously and in such a short space of time that we had finished it at about 10.20 p.m.

Then we had a matter on the Adjournment. I think it is quite reasonable for a Deputy who has taken a very special interest in a particular measure—and who, as he says himself, has about 200 amendments down—and wants to concentrate on it, to say that it is not asking much, after a heavy day, to ask if Deputies would agree to adjourn 20 minutes earlier.

If the House does not agree there cannot be any discussion about an adjournment. There is nothing before the House except amendment No. 8.

Last night when Private Members' business was called and there were a number of Labour Party motions, Deputy Corish asked the indulgence of the House to postpone them and we agreed to an early adjournment. The House was quite reasonable in granting that. If he wants to oppose my asking for an adjournment 20 minutes earlier I have no objection.

It is not necessarily an objection to 20 minutes but to Deputy Cowan's plea. Lastnight I gave a valid reason why I considered the House should adjourn and that was agreed. Deputy Cowan has not yet shown any reason why we should adjourn now except that we have sat for a very long time. If Deputy Cowan made the plea that he was unaware of this or was unprepared to go on with the amendments, it would be a different thing. He has not said that.

That was the implication in what he said.

I make the same plea as was made in Green Street Courthouse by Mr. Curran when defending certain national prisoners, that at a particular hour of the night he was tired. That is the statement I make.

I have no objection——

I will not accept it now; I will go ahead.

——if the Deputy makes the case that he was not prepared.

I am prepared. I am sorry for the delay. We might have dealt with this very rapidly in the morning in a better atmosphere.

The amendment I propose is a very important one, to Section 4. I regret that I have to set this out for the information of the Deputies who were not present when we were discussing it previously. Section 4 introduced a principle which I think is an undesirable one, which I consider is dangerous and which in my opinion should not be in a Bill of this kind. It provides:—

"(1) The Government may, whenever they consider the circumstances are of such a nature as to warrant their so doing, by Order under this sub-section declare that a state of emergency exists."

That is the section to which I take very serious exception. There was an amendment by Deputy O'Higgins to delete that section. On the last day we were discussing this, Deputy Collins asked that the Chair should accept from him an amendment thatthe section be deleted, on the grounds that the proposer of the motion which was to be put before the House and which was not moved was unable to be present at the time. I take it that a decision has been given that that amendment cannot now be accepted?

Then the House is left with the amendment which I proposed, to delete the section and substitute therefor the following sub-section:—

(1) The Government, a motion specifically authorising them to do so having first been passed by Dáil Éireann, may by Order under this sub-section declare that a state of emergency exists for the period mentioned in the motion authorising the declaration.

I gave some considerable thought to the wording of that amendment. The effect of the amendment is that a state of emergency cannot be declared by the Government outside the specific provisions mentioned in the Constitution, unless a motion is introduced into Dáil Éireann and that motion is passed by Dáil Éireann authorising the Government by Order to declare that a state of emergency exists for that period mentioned in the motion authorising the declaration.

What we have to consider in regard to this is, in my view, a matter that deserves the most serious consideration and attention of the House. If the section as it stands is passed, the Government would be entitled to declare a state of emergency, or rather, in the precise wording of the sub-section, to declare that a state of emergency exists; and when the state of emergency is declared to exist by the Government, the Government will be entitled to call out all or any part of the Reserves and they will be entitled to declare that all or part of the Defence Forces are on active service.

There are certain other matters that flow from those declarations. The first —and I think it is a matter of fundamentalimportance—is that, when a state of emergency is declared, ordinary citizens of this State, whether they live in Baltinglass or Ballinalee—I am being alphabetical now, rather than anything else—may be obliged to take and keep and billet members of the Defence Forces. In other words, whether it is down in Wexford—where I understand they might have some difficulties about a local post office—or anywhere else, the people in that area would be obliged under this Bill to billet soldiers and officers. In other words, they are obliged to provide accommodation and food for officers and soldiers. They are obliged to provide accommodation for horses and food for horses, and to provide petrol for military cars and lorries and accommodation for military cars and lorries.

If it were my intention to delay the House, I could elaborate on these particular things. The food and accommodation are specifically provided. Some Deputies may think that is not so serious, but I think it is very serious. There is this important sting in the tail—that if a citizen refuses to billet officers or soldiers, refuses to provide livery stables and forage for horses, or refuses to provide premises and garages for mechanically propelled vehicles, he is, under a subsequent section of this Bill, guilty of a contravention of the section and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20.

It is a serious matter that the ordinary citizen, who will not take in a soldier, who will not provide food for the soldier or who will not take in a military vehicle——

Has he any choice as to the particular soldier he will take in?

That is very important, too.

He has no choice— he must obey. The peculiar thing— and the Minister will agree with me on this—is that he does not even know —I am putting it in the broadest and most general way possible—what his obligations are, because the sectiondealing with billeting provides that the Minister may make regulations enabling him to prescribe the things that must be done by the citizen—the food, forage, petrol and services that should be provided—and the payment he will get in respect of these things.

Billeting has always been considered a very serious matter. Anyone who has studied the rise of democracy, who has studied the incubus of military forces operating amongst the civilian community, will realise that in the days of old one of the great struggles for liberty amongst the citizens was the struggle against billeting. In this country we had a long struggle extending over very many years against the billeting of soldiers on the civilian population.

That is the Deputy's difficulty—he is still thinking in terms of an army of occupation. This is a question of native troops protecting the people.

No, I am not. So far as this country was concerned—I am glad the Minister has given me the opportunity of putting it this way— our experience was of billeting by an army of occupation. Whether they were the North Munsters or the South Armaghs, they were part of a force of occupation and they were billeted on the people. Deputy Mac Fheórais can find in his history of Wexford—there are some magnificent books published in regard to that period of the occupation of Ireland in 1798—the very serious effect of billeting by the yeomen on the local population.

Surely the Deputy is not putting that forward as a comparison?

No, but it is billeting by forces of occupation. In England there was the same struggle against the billeting of troops on the population—not the troops of an army of occupation but the troops of a hostile king. I hope I am seeing wrongly, but I can visualise a period in 100 years time—I hope it will be at least that far away—in which there will be a struggle between the Government andthe people, and the military forces of the Government being sent into a particular area to compel the people to obey the Government writ. I can visualise that army being billeted on the people not when there was a real state of emergency, because I am not dealing with that at the moment but when there is the sort of state of emergency that is declared by Government Order. Where you have a Government which has secured office and which operates contrary to the will of the people and enforces laws that are not sanctioned by the democratic wish of the people, you have a state of affairs in which the executive, as it is known in constitutional discussions, is acting in a hostile manner towards the people.

The laws will not count then.

I can see the force of what the minister says, that, in circumstances such as those, laws will not matter two hoots; but the strange thing about it is that the first steps of every dictator—I think Deputy Hickey referred to one to-night—are generally within the law. What we have to ensure is that it is not easy for them just to bring themselves within the law in such a way that they can enforce their will——

And become the law.

——and become tyrants and dictators. In all democratic forms of organisation, we have these safeguards. We have it here in this Parliament. We are here representing the ordinary people. Some of us are stupid and some of us are considered to be more stupid than we are; some of us have some intelligence and some have a lot more, but we are the safeguard, stupid as we are, which is given to the ordinary people against a corrupt executive and against an executive which is determined to act in a dictatorial way against the wishes of the people. That is a very important matter. It is a most important consideration that the constitutional safeguards for the people must be guaranteed and so far as I am concernedthe only constitutional safeguard for the people of this country is Dáil Éireann, sitting as we sit here.

As is the Parliament of any country.

We have at the moment a small, sparsely attended House, Deputies doing their ordinary business elsewhere, but those Deputies will come in here, and, as the late Deputy Hugo Flinn would say, they will vote for right with their feet up those stairs. I think that is important. I know that the present Minister and the Government will not act in a tyrannical way, but this Bill does not deal with to-day or to-morrow. This is a permanent Defence Forces Bill, a Billfor all time, in so far as any Bill can be considered a Bill for all time.

Safeguarding democracy, in other words.

That is the whole problem. So far as I am concerned, I am safeguarding it. If there is an emergency situation, that situation can be faced by this House and this House can give the Government all the powers it thinks the Government ought to get for a limited period to deal with the crisis that exists.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 11.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 20th February, 1953.