I had intended to be brief on this subject and simply to add my voice concisely to those who support this amendment. I think the Ceann Comhairle was in the House for the contributions of Deputy Burke and the Minister and I trust he will extend to me the opportunity to deal with matters he permitted those speakers to deal with. Before going on to my general considerations of this amendment, I should like to refer briefly to the speeches of Deputy Burke and of the Minister.
Deputy Burke raised the objection at the beginning of his contribution that if a person finds squatters in his house he has the right to eject them. Deputy Cooney has pointed out that there is an ancient common law right to protect one's property and in the history of this Parliament the Labour Party have never tried by the various mechanisms available to them to introduce legislation to abrogate that right. I can say without any danger of contradiction, or without any need to ask anyone's opinion on the matter, that we uphold that ancient common law right, as I am sure do all Members of this House.
However, the reality is that trespass, which is a well-understood though complex and ancient category of transgression in law, is brought by this legislation within the criminal law. This poses a new situation. The transfer of trespass into the criminal law is implicit, and, in fact, explicit, in this legislation, and we must point out the dangers of that course and the anomalies that will exist if the Bill is to become an Act of this Parliament.
Of course, people in possession of their houses object if they find squatters on their property. All persons of all descriptions in possession of a home protect their property—one could generalise and say that this applies to every living thing. The protection of a home, of territory, or a nest, is a basic instinct of all living things. It is right that this should be recognised by legislation and that the right should be protected by legislation.
To pose such unpleasant possibilities for people in possession and occupation of homes is to distort entirely the real nature of the problem of squatters. People do not want to squat for fun, they do not do it out of wickedness, and they do not do it on a major scale. They squat out of need, out of exasperation, out of outrage. When real need is expressed in such actions as squatting, when there is real exasperation because of the unavailability of adequate accommodation, when there is outrage at the contrast, on the one hand, between the provision of insufficient housing—which creates the pressure—and certain kinds of commercial buildings, on the other hand, there is a situation in which a small number of people—never a significant number of the entire population—do things for reasons of protest and of expressing their outrage and indignation.
You can deal with that sort of genuine problem in two ways. You try to crush it by legislation or you can deal with the point that is producing their outrage. I said a long time ago that agitators— and there are agitators in Ireland—are symptoms and not causes. At times it is improper to agitate, and at other times it is obligatory. When the housing situation gets to the stage it has got to in Dublin, agitation is, in fact, obligatory and not an offence, not a crime, not a socially undesirable action.
To say that every home peacefully occupied by the population of this country is under threat by squatters is to say something that is a ridiculous distortion of the real situation. I noticed a word occurring a number of times in what Deputy Burke had to say. He said: "We are only trying to protect the decent people of this country." He said later on in a totally different part of his speech: "We are not going to interfere with any decent man." I wonder if by "decent" people Deputy Burke means people he and his party approve of. People have the entitlement to legal protection whether they are decent or whether they are rotten.
You cannot say on somebody's arbitrary judgment that something is a characteristic of decent people whom the law will protect and with whom we will not interfere, leaving other people out. The law has to protect everyone. You cannot make judgments as to who is decent and who is not decent. Other than in the explicit carrying out of that law, the State must not interfere with people whether they are decent or not decent. If you start creating categories like this you move into the authoritarian area which is in the mood of thís Bill, the mood of the Government Party, and the mood of the current times. You face the possibility of the abandonment of fundamental civil rights, of internment, of the use of the whole oppressive apparatus of the State against those who are not, to quote Deputy Burke's phrase, "decent people".
He says that we have suffered from the parliament of the streets. The Labour Party have played their part in the history of this Parliament to uphold it and defend it. He says we want anarchy. The Minister said there were certain people in this House who would like to see no law, certain people in this House "seeking to reduce Ireland to anarchy". I will come back to that in a moment. He said that we in the Labour Party want to replace the Parliament in this building, of this nation, with the parliament of the streets. I think those things were said in anger, in irritation, in chagrin, and I do not propose to take them too seriously. I do not propose to spend time in trying to rebut them.
I want to come back to the point that when ordinary citizens who are trying to live reasonably useful lives take to the streets in large numbers, it is not because of agitators, but because of real issues that are not dealt with. If you want to have a reasonable, decently functioning, calm, legal Parliament which is not being pushed by the parliament of the street, you must remove the cause which results in ordinary citizens going out on to the streets. We must never try to legislate street demonstration or agitation out of existence. When people's irritation with the proceedings of this House, when people's fury with the unsolved problems such as the problem of housing, express themselves in waves of public demonstrations, serious public representatives must listen and must see what the cause is and try to remove it.
We must not make conflict situations between this Parliament and the parliament of the people. The parliament of the people in the streets in a structured legal sense is subordinate to us but, in fact, the word we use to describe members of this assembly, the name we call ourselves by, is a good name. We call ourselves Deputies. We come here as the Deputies of the parliament of the streets, the houses, the fields and the villages all over the country. In fact, in the long run, the people are sovereign, not this Parliament. If large numbers of them come out on the streets on serious issues it is for serious reasons.
I am not suggesting that the speech of my colleague from North County Dublin, Deputy Burke, was a Fascist speech. This is a Fascist piece of legislation but I do not think his was a Fascist speech. Yet there are the beginnings of these authoritarian echoes, the echoes that we protect decent people and that those we do not characterise as decent are outside the law, the echoes that the parliament of the streets is something alien, something wicked, something not to be listened to, something in conflict with this Parliament and something which, if it becomes too serious and too extensive in the end, must be repressed.
I do not see a conflict between the parliament of the streets and the Parliament that sits here. I would very much regret the day that there ever came to be such a conflict. We are Deputies and we must listen to the streets. We must try to find the real causes that put people there. If the grievances are real, we must try to remove them. That is the only way that agitation, the parliament of the streets, demonstrations, can be ended, not by repression.
We were accused of hypocrisy by Deputy Burke for trying to oppose this Bill. Had I got up sooner I would have said rather bitter things about this word "hypocrisy". If I simply refer to it as having been uttered by Deputy Burke, those who know him will know what I mean without my being more explicit. He accused us of not wanting law and order. He said we do not want Parliament to exist. I will come to that later in a different context in regard to what the Minister said.
I thought we were having a reasonable discussion on this Bill and on these amendments until this was injected into the debate by Deputy Burke and by the Minister, until they were permitted to do so by the Ceann Comhairle. That having happened, we have no option but to take up those points and answer them. I would turn his own word "hypocrisy" back on Deputy Burke in the context of last year, when the threat to law and order in the most central and profound way in the heart of the Government came from his party and when the Minister introducing this legislation is kept in office by persons against whom that threat can be made legitimately. This is where the law and order threat in Ireland is coming from at this time. When that member of that party has the effrontery to stand up and hurl from those benches that accusation, then he has brought it on himself and on his party that we reply in the way in which I am now replying. Nobody in that party has the right to make threats or accusations about law and order at this time in this Parliament and about wanting the Parliament to exist.
A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, you were not in the House and I realise you may be wondering at the relevance of what I am saying to the amendment we are discussing. I am following it, Sir, as quickly as I can because these were points permitted to be raised on this amendment by speakers on the Government benches; I am following it, Sir, entirely in that sense and I am dealing with quotations from things which they said and which they introduced into this debate. I realise I am talking not directly to the amendment, but I am talking to the points made by previous speakers and, so long as I stick to the points made, I have the right, I understand, to reply to them and I feel this ought to be done as quickly as possible.
We were accused of not wanting law and order to exist and I think I have given the reply to that. We were accused of not wanting Parliament to exist. But where has the threat to Parliament been in the last couple of years? I am amazed at the effrontery that can make that charge from those benches. I am also amazed at the foolishness and the forgetfulness of the events that have been convulsing Ireland in the last year. They have not originated in either of the Opposition parties.
Deputy Burke also accused me of making false statements. I do not propose to pursue that except to say that I still await the rebuttal of those statements. I still await an answer. I have been waiting now for some time. If they were false Deputy Burke and his party owe it to this country to show how they are false. A simple statement that they are false is horrible and ridiculous, a bald statement without any indication as to the way in which they are false.
I want to turn now to the extraordinary accusation made by the Minister for Justice. I do not propose to spend a great deal of time on the petulant interjections of the Minister for Justice and the extraordinary accusations from a man in his responsible position that we are seeking to reduce Ireland to anarchy. There are certain people I am quoting, certain people in this House, who would like to see no law. There are certain people in this House who would wish to deny the right of free speech. These ridiculous and petulant interjections are unworthy of the Minister and the same observations I have made about Deputy Burke's charges apply to him also. As Minister for Justice he must be aware more than anybody in this House as to where the threat to law is coming from in this island at this moment. It is his responsibility to know that as Minister for Justice. He must be aware as to where the threat is coming from in this island at this moment. He must be so aware in his professional capacity as Minister for Justice. For him to hurl, in the possession of the knowledge he has as Minister for Justice, these accusations at us is so ridiculous as to give one yet further reason, if further reason be needed, to doubt his competence to fill this sensitive Ministry, an important post at an important time.
I want to turn now to the direct content of this amendment. I think it is generally recognised, if one compares populations with different ethnic origins in countries in which there is a mixture of ethnic groups, such as the United States of America, parts of Britain, Australia, and so on, that we, as Irishmen, have a national propensity to come to blows with each other rather more rapidly than other ethnic groups. This may have racial origins, to the very limited extent that the Irish are a race. It may have origins in the distant ethnic past of our country, but it also has more recent origins in our behaviour and our attitude towards each other.
I think there is a bullyboy tradition on the Irish political scene. I think, and I say this seriously, that if one were to look at the documentation of the history of every general election, particularly since the late twenties, one would see that in the main the exponents of that bullyboy tradition came from within the ranks of the Fianna Fáil Party. The willingness to "lurry up" the people, if I may use that phrase, with whom one does not agree, this tendency—in the past, fortunately, not expressed in a very structural way, just the little but of intimidation here and there, the little bits of the offer of physical violence here and there—this tendency built on top, of course, of what I have already admitted to, far transcends the tradition of party politics. This tendency to come to blows with each other is, I think, a national characteristic, and a regrettable one. But, then, in recent years, far from an effort on the part of the Government party, which has been in power and has been the largest, in many ways the most influential party, and, therefore, an extraordinary source of reaction of influence in this area, far from seeing a deliberate and conscious effort to move away from this national tradition, which, I think, all of us will admit is a national tradition, and a regrettable one, the evolution has been all the other way. We have not seen the structural effort to move away from it and I believe that this Bill is an example of just that and it is with that that Deputy Pattison's amendment is specifically concerned. We have seen by the Government party a strengthening of the tendency towards the bullyboy approach, rather than a weakening of it, rather than a deliberate effort to remove that tendency from the public scene. We have seen this, to me, strictly distasteful sight of the growing up of private security groups under the guise of the protection of private property but which were, in fact, on the road to becoming paramilitary organisations functioning similarly to the police, dressed like the police, carrying batons, but not, of course, subject to the control to which the police are subject. We did not have to wait for Hume Street to see the emergence of groups, which were formerly allegedly designed to protect private property, being used on the streets in a way I consider to be altogether wrong. We saw it at the time of the general election. We saw a security group being employed and used by the Government party. I think that was a retrograde evolution. I think it was one that any political party should have set its face against but, above all, one against which the party in power should have set its face.
To come to the events then which had a significant part in the genesis of this Bill: we had the events of Hume Street, a formal justification for the protection of property and, yet, it is implicit in the 1916 Proclamation, to which Deputy Burke referred so fulsomely, that the heritage of the Irish people is more than just the property of a person who happens to have legal title to that building. We saw a specific organisation—K Security—used in what was to me an authoritarian, arbitrary, ruthless and disgraceful way. Of course, if you dress people like police and give them some of the physical force equipment that police possess, batons and the like—in this case they had pick handles—and if they function in circumstances in which they believe they have the approval of the Government, one must not be surprised if the individual loses the distinction between what is permissive legally and what transcends the limits of legality. On that particular occasion these people behaved disgracefully and beyond what ought to be permitted in a democratic society. It was an escalation of the bullyboy tendency that I believe to be a fundamental part of the thinking of the entire Fianna Fáil organisation. This time their actions were structured. They had uniforms and pick handles and they believed themselves to have approval of the Government and of the entire Fianna Fáil Party. Indeed, nothing has been done since then that would give rise to any doubt in their minds as to the existence of such approval.
If we take a parallel with the treatment of the students who were trying to preserve the Hume Street buildings—we have a tradition also of pushing around tinkers. I suppose it is more polite now to refer to them as itinerants but the usage of a more polite term does not help them in their dilemma as people who are outside society—Irish men and women who are deprived of their rights. They have always been pushed somewhat more than have other citizens and they have been intimidated more too. We have known of scandalous cases in some parts of the country where they were intimidated by this bullyboy psychology to which I refer. That is the sort of treatment that, from ordinary people, deepens their sense of alienation and makes more difficult their integration into our society. I know that in many ways they constitute a problem that is a source of irritation but we have a responsibility to integrate them because if we keep them separate from the rest of the community we are then faced with a totally different set of rules and attitudes towards them. The only possibility is to treat them as equal citizens and to do everything possible to integrate them.
Briefly, that is the background against which Deputy Pattison moved this amendment which I am supporting because were it to be simply an effort to take away the ancient common law rights of a person to protect his property, it would be one which I am convinced our party would not have put forward and would be one which I would not support but that is not the point. The reason for putting down the amendment is that this ancient recognised category of transgression which is known as trespass, by this extraordinary and, to my mind, scandalous piece of legislation that is being pushed now through petulance rather than for any better motive, has been brought within the criminal law. The object of our amendment is to emphasise the impossibilities, the anomalies and the ridiculous situations that will arise if this Bill is enacted. When one gets into the category of a relationship regulated by criminal law, one must use the evolved mechanism of the police for regulating that sort of relationship. One must take the force of what the Minister said when he talked about the situation that would arise in removing animals from a field in which there were crops of corn. The situation can arise, too, in relation to rights of way and in relation to children who stray. All of these actions would constitute trespass— actions that occur normally but which are sometimes deliberate or malicious or which sometimes are devised for the purpose of deliberate political demonstration. Who are we with our historical evolution to deny the validity of the trespass which occurs in the pursuit of political protest? Deputy Burke said that this House was sacred. If by that he meant it was a place that must have the respect of every Irishman, I agree with him but it is worth saying that this House and none of the institutions of this State would exist if, during many years, Irish people had not, at times, had to choose to break laws. There could be very little demonstration of a valid kind——