These points were made by Government Deputies in criticising our contribution to the debate and I am replying to those criticisms. The Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy O'Kennedy, spent some time ridiculing the Labour Party for holding views of this kind. Quite clearly he does not understand that views of this kind are particularly powerful in their influence.
I think it would be reasonable for the Labour Party to say that the most powerful force altering conditions of work for workers is a form of civil disobedience, namely, strike action, the withdrawal of labour. It is on the basis of that very simple principle of civil disobedience that the whole, great, powerful, now immensely strong transnational world trade union movement is based. It is based on the idea of peaceful refusal to collaborate, walking up and down outside the factory, or whatever it may be, allowing the factory or whatever it may be to carry on, if it can. Usually it cannot because of the wonderful solidarity of the average working man in a situation of that kind. The immense power of the simple decision to refuse to collaborate, causing inconvenience, sometimes distress, sometimes hardship particularly to those on strike, has changed the face of society. But this is part of the whole process, the hardship, the inconvenience and the distress, of changing society in a peaceful way.
We resent being ridiculed when we put forward on this section views in the tradition of the Labour Party, when we resist this nostalgia, as Deputy Dr. Cruise-O'Brien described it, for force which seems to run through so much of what has been so wrongly described as the republican movement here in the past 50 or 60 years. We resist that temptation. It is, of course, far less dramatic, far less exciting, simply to go on strike or to chain oneself to a railing, or, like Mahatma Gandhi, to go on hunger strike and refuse to raise his hand against another human being. We saw this, too, in the quite funny speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Andrews, in his criticism of our amendment because we said we would not forcibly eject anybody. A case can be made for going to the extreme of rejecting force everywhere we can. There is a method for dealing with a situation of this kind. The gardaí are there. They are the experts. We do not believe force should be used.
The basic trend in all the contributions by the Fianna Fáil Party, and even by Deputy Burke, has been that in some way or other we are soft, we are not manly, soldierly, militaristic-type individuals who will man the barricades, go to war and so on, in defence of our principles. We are not that kind of people and we are very proud we are not that kind of people —I certainly am. I do not think history will ever justify that action by the end result and the bitterness which occurs.
Deputy O'Kennedy was particularly critical of our last amendment. He seems to overlook the fact that the provisions of section 4 will make new criminals. Under section 4, which this amendment attempts to amend, a person, that is any person, can become a criminal. It is not just a person who will put an individual out of his house but any person who encourages, advocates and so on, becomes a criminal so that we now have a completely new class of criminal involved in this piece of legislation. Deputy O'Kennedy had no difficulty whatsoever in coming in here to defend this particular proposal. Newspaper men, radio and television commentators, and in particular ordinary individuals taking part in any kind of protest action can become criminals. Most politicians have at some time helped or encouraged a number of these causes. The Minister for Justice said, and Deputy O'Kennedy supported him that since the beginning of time nobody has been permitted to advocate or incite to a criminal act. It has for time immemorial been a criminal offence to incite another to commit a criminal act. We all know that is the general trend of their comments. What disturbs us very much is that the word "incitement" has been enlarged. As Deputy Keating said the word "incitement" has a very specific connotation and buried in the minds of all of us is the idea that you incite somebody to do wrong and therefore one appears to follow the other, but you should not be allowed to incite somebody to do wrong. None of us differ on that point at all.
The interesting development has been the addition of the words "encourage or advocate". This brings us into a completely new area of danger where all of us as politicians, are concerned. I would like to remind the Minister that he is legislating for the foreseeable future, and most of us who think we can foresee the future politically tend to believe that the Fianna Fáil Party are not going to go on endlessly in power. If the provisions of this Bill are unjust, it is possible that if the Fianna Fáil Party should revert to its great radical days, its great liberal concern for suffering humanity, which is there and no one can ever deny it, some of them, including the Minister, might find themselves in a position in which they are going to break the law. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that some member of the Fianna Fáil Party who is now supporting this Bill may find himself encouraging or advocating something which he believes is perfectly reasonable and perfectly justified under the circumstances of the particular situation.
As Deputy Keating said, "incite" means to urge or to stir up a person to do something. "Encourage" means a number of things; it means to embolden, to incite and to advise a person to do something or other, to promote or to assist. The word "encourage" is so wide in its implications and in human and political activity generally that it seems to me, as a layman, it will be completely impossible for the courts to interpret what the Minister has in mind in this particular section. It is too dangerously wide to allow it to remain as it is. It is quite obvious that the word "embolden" is a simple enough word generally intended to mean the encouragement of somebody who is anxious, worried or unhappy; or somebody who has suffered a setback, is distressed in some way or other, suffered a loss and feels the loss very much, some sort of timorous person. It is a very vague word but the trouble is, of course, that one cannot be specific about the particular act or decision which would embolden such a person. What has one done? What must one do to see that one does not embolden an individual in such a situation? If one simply does nothing at all does one embolden somebody? If one turns the other way and takes no notice does one give them support in their idea? That word will confuse and torture the unfortunate judiciary and the legal profession if ever an attempt is made to relate the action of an individual to a particular set of circumstances in which he is accused of encouraging or emboldening a particular individual who is in distress of some kind or other. How does one encourage a person? Surely it is endless in its possibilities?
If you attend a meeting, if you applaud, if you contribute, if you circulate leaflets, if you put up posters telling that the meeting is on, if you speak at a meeting, if you sit on the platform while the person is speaking and you do not ostentatiously get down, is this all, in sum, encouragement, the breaking of this particular new criminal law? If that is so, surely not only the journalists, the radio and television people, but there is virtually nobody who at some time will not break the law—lay people, trade union leaders, occasionally church leaders who may take sides on issues of this kind and, in that way, encourage people to carry on with their particular form of protest. If you refuse to discourage somebody from doing something, is that encouragement? Most people know well that if a traffic warden does not bother moving a person who is parked on the double line it is a negative act but it could be an encouragement to the person to break the law. Silence, the fact that you do not criticise the individual for what he is doing, tacit consent—could that be an interpretation of this very broad provision in this section?
If any of the men who led the freedom movement 50 years ago had survived and were to write about their activities—Connolly in the GPO, Jim Ryan in the GPO, if Mr. de Valera, the President, was to start talking about his forcible occupation of Boland's Mills, if Rory O'Connor, Cathal Brugha, had survived to write their stories, the people of the Land League—would they not, in fact, have encouraged in their own way the young people of today who sometimes completely misunderstand the different circumstances of that time? They all acted as leaders, and gave encouragement to young people to continue what they believe is fighting for freedom. Are these people to be called criminals under this Bill because what they have done stands there as part of our heritage, part of our history and because all of these deeds were in their own way honourable, certainly courageous? How can we separate this kind of action from the action of an individual who today decides to go to a meeting and by the most innocent act is accused of supporting or encouraging what purports to be an offence under this Bill?
The Minister asked if journalists, the newspapers, television, the radio were to be above the law. Of course, nobody suggested that they should be above the law least of all the journalists, the editors of newspapers or the television and radio people. They do not want to be outside the law at all. They have never had any difficulty in not inciting somebody to rob a bank, to rape somebody or murder somebody or batter somebody to death. It has never been a problem with them because of the sense of social responsibility which all of them have in the exercise of their function as journalists.
None of us has any rosy or extravagant beliefs in the quality of journalism generally in a society such as ours. We know that the newspapers are subject to many great pressures, pressures with which we completely disagree—I certainly completely disagree with them— pressures from the industrialists, pressures from businessmen, pressures from the wealthy section who happen to own these newspapers because that is the kind of society we live in. If you have a cheque book you can establish a newspaper. I spent most of my life working in a society in which most of the things in which I believe and have talked about from time to time have been anathema to most newspapers in Ireland over those years but, having said that, it is still true that there is access to the Press. If one is misrepresented, if something is said with which one does not agree, I have always found it possible to gain access for correction or for putting forward a point of view in any of these newspapers no matter how much they may have disagreed with what I believe and what I have said. To that extent the Press has played a very useful role and does play an indispensible role in a society such as ours. There are obviously periods in which the Press is more enlightened and more liberal and gives a fair representation of different points of view. Sometimes it appears to me to be better than others. Some newspapers are a little bit more liberal or a little bit more right wing than others. There is this variation and it is a very healthy and desirable variation in the Press and in their presentation of the news as they see it. The danger we see here is with the kind of freedom or to what extent we agree with it or feel it should be enlarged or restricted. The kind of freedom that is here at the moment, we believe, is a very precious and very important thing to a Parliament.
Deputy Cruise-O'Brien said that we were interdependent, each of us depended on the other to a considerable extent. We could attenuate their freedoms; they can suppress our points of view. So, we are both really very powerful influences in a democracy of our kind and we both have to have respect for one another and we try to have respect for one another. This provision here, in our view, is an attempt in a very serious way to delimit and restrict the freedom of the Press in relation to its right to comment.
We do not have any illusions about the whole role of the Press in a society such as ours. Yet, I think it is fair to say that, whatever the reasons—and I have my own reasons. I will not bother you with them tonight—there appears to have been a change in attitude. I suspect the competition of television in particular has created a need for a very active type of journalism in Ireland in recent years and the papers have responded and, it seems to me, it has created a demand for the good journalist, not just the hack, political journalist who will say anything he is paid to say, a sort of hired journalistic prostitute who will work for anyone and does not mind what he says. We have moved away from that kind of journalist and have moved into the area of the journalist who is a very good journalist—it does not matter whether he is a right wing journalist or a left wing or a middle of the road or whatever it is—but he can get a job on a paper simply because he is a good journalist and he can comment critically and analyse a situation; he will deal with it; apply his own standards, values, and arrive at his own conclusions, no matter whether it pleases or displeases the man who is paying him.
That is a most welcome development in journalism in Ireland. It has been in other countries for some time, where you get a left wing journalist like Michael Foot working for Beaverbrook, or Alan Brien or a number of these other people, right wing journalists working for theNew Statesman, who are simply concerned that the contents of their newspapers are readable, stimulating, critical and that it will sell their papers. Because, I believe, of the expansion of literacy in our different societies, the old predigested hack which has been given out so readily, the general preoccupation with writing a good sports page and a good horse racing contribution, no longer is enough in Irish journalism. We find that is the case in all the newspapers, even the Irish Press, which everybody knows was a strictly political news sheet at one time or other. It served its function at the time it was introduced by Mr. de Valera. It was an important function —to propagate the views of the Fianna Fáil Party and so on, and I am not criticising that, but it did lapse then into simply becoming a sort of “Fianna Fáil can do no wrong”— uncritical—and the people stopped reading it.
In latter years we have seen the evolution right across the whole spectrum of newspapers in Ireland the ebullient, questioning, critical, analytical, thoughtful, socially concerned journalist and particularly, of course, that is notable in relation to the female journalists right across through the famous Mary Kenny, Rosita Sweetman, Mary Maher, Nell McCafferky, Eileen O'Brien, June Levine—all of these people who have transformed the whole pattern of journalism in Ireland by, of course, the involvement of women readers as well as men in social issues of one kind or another.
We are entering into an important phase in newspaper journalism in Ireland. We are finding that the newspaper proprietors are tending to give a free rein to their journalists to produce good newsy newspapers which comment freely but responsibly and correctly on society as they see it without caring whether it will please or displease the people who own the newspapers. That is a most welcome development because it can only mean that right across the newspaper readership of the three major newspapers you will get an enlightened readership and that readership being the electorate, you will get an enlightened electorate and the whole pattern of politics will be eventually transformed through the influence of newspapers.
We see this development here and we see how jealously this right of Press freedom is guarded. Probably the most heartening example of this is in relation to the United States. Many wonderful things are coming out of the United States. I have been critical of the United States on many occasions but I think most of us agree that it is showing a remarkable capacity to insist on its basic democratic structure and the survival within a society, which had tended to become authoritarian in various ways, of this radical feeling amongst the community, the radical right to protest, to differ, to dissent. Whatever one may say about the United States and its various involvements and so on, the wonderful thing is that this right to dissent is still there. They can still go into the streets—they take a great risk when they do—but they are able to do so. They go to jail and they get out again. There is this great intellectual ferment in that society which is a wonderfully healthy thing as long as it is permitted and it is being permitted and that is a tribute to the States. It is still being permitted. Throughout its history, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution has been the most wonderful safeguard of all.
In spite of the notorious abuse of the American Press in censorship, suppression, slanting and all sorts of other invasions of personal privacy and all these things it comes back to the one thing concerning all of us on this side of the House tonight, this basic tenet of the democratic right to dissent.
There was this wonderful decision the other day when the US Supreme Court upheld the right of theNew York Times and the Washington Post to publish the material based on the Pentagon papers. This is a marvellous tribute to the US Constitution and its framers. It was Jefferson who said: “If we have to choose between a Government without newspapers or newspapers without a Government we would always choose the latter.” I think Deputy Fitzpatrick made that point of the importance of the newspapers. Deputy Cruise-O'Brien dissented from that and said we were interdependent but this expression of Jefferson's shows the tremendous importance of the necessity to retain intact the absolute integrity of the Press to the extent we can but in particular, in regard to the right to comment.
The framers of the American Constitution deliberately insisted on the right to retain free speech and the freedom of the Press as the two great freedoms in a democratic society. They refused to concede to any American Government since the Constitution was framed the right to prior restraint on publication and free speech unless the safety of the community could be clearly demonstrated by the Government to be imperilled. This could not be done in relation to the Pentagon papers. The obvious case is where if the papers were to say at a time of war: "This is where our army or our marines are." Obviously, this could constitute a grave danger to the safety of the State and would not be permissible. But on this occasion it was decided that the newspapers were not in any way interfering with the basic safety of the society or the State. They insisted on retaining this great privilege which we are here still fighting for in this amendment. That constitution has endured for 200 years and in all that time the US Federal Government has never been able to persuade the courts to stop the publication of any newspaper and the US has survived.
This freedom is a very precious thing in any society. The distressing thing here is that the Minister appears not to appreciate the seriousness of the results of his action. The Americans went even further than ourselves in the Labour Party. We felt the less said about the Springboks the better and we were criticised for taking that point of view and making that comment but the Americans believe that even the vicious, backstreet pamphleteer has a right to print and publish his literature if he wants to. This right was upheld in 1931 by Mr. Justice Hughes who decided that kind of pamphleteer of which most of us would disapprove also had his rights. So, it is not just a little local concern that we in the Labour and Fine Gael Parties are expressing: this is a matter of international concern. In many countries this privilege does not exist and I have no doubt they are very much the worse as a result.
Deputy Keating dealt with journalists' protests about this, their letter of protest. In passing, I shall only say that I was surprised the Minister should hold in some way that we had frightened the journalists into believing something; that what we were saying was untrue and that these people were not fit to decide for themselves whether section 4, in fact, threatens their freedom or not. I have no doubt that it does. The Minister made much of the point that these people must toe the line, newspaper editors, journalists, radio and television commentators, like everybody else must obey the law, but he has failed to deal with the fact that it is this law that we question, sections 2 and 3, under which they have to refrain from comment, from criticism and refrain from encouragement. As Deputy Keating said, the taking of photographs, reporting of an incident and all these things can be interpreted as encouragement. The change from the use of the word "incitement" to the much broader word which is capable of any interpretation you wish to put on it, the word "encouragement" is the dangerous element which makes this Bill so objectionable from our point of view.
It would not be the first time that a Parliament passed a bad law. Apparently this House has passed ten laws which have been declared unconstitutional. How did we manage to do that with all the wonderful hinterland of advice, not only from Deputies who happen to be lawyers, but from the many experts who are available in the Departments? I am not criticising them, implicitly or otherwise, but it is possible that a bad law might be passed, it is possible that an unjust, anti-social law might be passed. It is a measure of the Minister's arrogance that he should believe it could not happen to him. The sad truth is that in the whole of world history—whether the States concerned were monarchies, were republics of the various kinds of democracy that have existed, or were feudal States—many bad laws have been passed and some of them are still in force.
Does an editor, a journalist, a politician, a trade-union leader, a church leader, or an ordinary civilian discharge his function as a human being and as a member of a community if he stays silent when he knows an injustice is being perpetrated? We can take the example of the Nuremberg laws: according to the dictatorship that promulgated them they were just laws. The laws prevented a Jew from getting a job, from holding a profession. They said a Jew must wear the Star of David—the insignia of his humiliation; there were laws about the rights of Jews to marry; laws in connection with the expropriation of their property and the denial of the most fundamental rights to them.
What is the role of an editor or a television or radio commentator in such circumstances? Because many of them protested in the early years they ended up in the concentration camps with the Jews they had tried to defend. Having started to undermine this important function of the whole democratic principle—the right of free speech and freedom to publish—the road was open to complete dictatorship by the few and this insistence on the absolute obedience to the lawmaker—in this case the lawmaker being the Minister for Justice.
If editors of newspapers in Germany in the 1930s protested, they were guilty of a crime and were punished. Their crime was to claim that all human beings have the same basic human rights of dignity and various other simple constitutional rights we accept here. Because of this they became criminals and went to jail. Our editors and journalists may in the future encourage or advocate a perfectly reasonable procedure. They may say: "You have no right to take away that man's property because of his religion or his race; you have no right to deny that individual the right to practice his profession because of his religion or race; you have no right to prevent him getting married; you have no right to treat those children as people who must be brought up isolated, withdrawn, in a ghetto life, because of their religion or race." It is a simple enough leader for a morning or evening paper to carry, or a simple enough statement for a radio or television commentator to make, but for advocacy of that simple basic principle that man or woman could go to jail as people did go to jail in the past. Under the terms of the Minister's Bill they can and will go to jail for advocating these basic human rights. It is for that reason that we object to the Bill.
These laws I have outlined were the laws of the land as put forward by the Hitlers and the Goebbelses. They were put forward as just laws, on whose implementation the whole safety of society depended. The integrity and purity of the great Aryan race depended on the implementation of such laws. That was the particular matter they were concerned about, that was their pet hobby-horse. The Minister's hobby-horse is the handful of people he believes to be communists in the housing action committee.
Is this country in such a condition of imminent collapse and anarchy that a handful of people of this kind can stand up against us and overthrow the Government? The Minister knows the position better than we do; is this what he is trying to convey to us? Are the Army and the police in such a state that a handful of men and women— and nobody has suggested that many are involved—are prepared for somecoup d'état and that we must have this type of legislation to ensure they do not get their way? We know things are bad and that the situation is dangerous in Ireland. In truth, this is not because of the activities of the handful of people the Minister calls subversive. The sad truth is that the threat to the State comes from a completely different direction. It comes from members of the Fianna Fáil Party and, what is worse, from prominent members of Fianna Fáil. That is where the threat to the State lies— not in these people.
The whole history of human society is, regrettably, littered with examples of completely unjust laws whereby societies with no right to power attempted to cling to power by their implementation of unjust laws. The Springboks were mentioned a little while ago. Does anybody know anything about the total absurdity of the laws in South Africa where they are attempting—and succeeding I must confess—to prevent the majority of the African people from getting rightful control of their own affairs and possession of their own territory and property? They have there the Suppression of Communism Act. It is a wonder that the Minister did not call this Bill the Suppression of Communism Bill. I suppose he knew well that he would be laughed out of the House because it is so patently absurd. I do not think anyone believes that the Communist Party has any power in this society— a negligible crowd of unimportant nobodys, representing nobody, standing for nobody, and certainly controlling no significant body of opinion in our society.
The Suppression of Communism Act in South Africa is much the same as the Hitler laws. Basically it has much the same broad ideas as the Minister's Bill. All of the terrible conditions under which the black Africans live in South Africa cannot be criticised or commented on. In relation to white people they cannot sit on the same benches in the park. They cannot buy a stamp in the same post office. They cannot sit in the same part of the bus. They cannot sit on the same side in the cinema. They cannot see a football match or a cricket match in the same part of the ground, or even in the same ground. They cannot be a member of a cricket team or a football team. That is our objection to the Springboks: the absurdity of the idea of sportmanship in a team, whether they are cricket players or football players, with this completely unchristian attitude to their fellow human beings, the attitude that a person is inferior simply because he is coloured, or because the colour of his skin is different from the colour of their skin. We suffer from that type of thing as Irish people. Everyone knows that : "Cattle and Irishmen, this way"—the emigrant ship. This was not so long ago really.
This kind of petty, but to the unfortunate African, terribly serious type of provision consciously and deliberately humiliates and attempts to degrade, as was the case of the Jews in Germany. It certainly succeeds in depriving a person of the most basic and fundamental human right to proper housing, proper education and a proper opportunity in life to develop himself, his mind, his ability and his intelligence to the extent that he has the capacity to do so.
It was because of this attitude by these people purporting to be sportsmen in tolerating this kind of provision in law that we objected to taking any notice of the Springboks at all. We wanted them to be treated with the silence of contempt. With all respect to their own humanity, it was only with contempt that we could consider the attitude, standards and values which they applied to their fellow Africans in South Africa, or to the black Africans in South Africa, because they would not claim to be fellow Africans. It is interesting that our view has been greatly supported since that time by most of the competing countries in the Olympic games. These people who allege that they are sportsmen are not being allowed to take part in the games because they discriminate against the black Africans.
In South Africa, just like in Germany in the thirties, most of the unfortunate newspaper editors and journalists are silenced now. I believe there are very few of them who dare to exercise their most important single function—defended in a wonderful way by the Supreme Court in the United States the other day in relation to the Pentagon Papers—the right to publish and the refusal to grant to the Government a prior right to veto what they intend to publish as long as it does not endanger the safety or security of the State. Because of their race and because of their colour, these terrible things are done to the unfortunate black Africans.
In case Deputies feel that these are terrible people—Voerster and Verwoerd and all these people—with a dreadful record, for "black Africans" just substitute the Irish homeless man and his wife and children. Substitute them if you are feeling in any way superior because it cannot happen here, and could not happen here, and does not happen here. It will happen here under this Bill, and the black African becomes the Irish homeless person whom Deputy Burke advised to buy a house. Buy a house! The builder's labourer, the road worker, the artisan is to buy a house. Let them eat cake. Remember? We heard that before, at the time of the French Revolution. Let them buy a house. How insensitive— but there is no use bothering with that kind of contribution.
In many countries where they lost the journalists' right to print or be damned, as the saying is, they lost a freedom so important that to a considerable extent I must share the view of Jefferson that it is probably more important—and it is certainly as important—that there should be a free Press than that there should be a free Parliament, and any reduction, modification, attenuation of this freedom is a bad thing. We may feel they could be more liberal, they could be broader, and we resist and oppose any attempt to reduce these freedoms. In South Africa we have the position the Minister for Justice wants in Ireland in which the television, the radio, the newspapers and, of course, the politicians in Parliament, are utterly muzzled and cannot comment adversely on what they see as the iniquitous inhumanity of man to man, the White South African to the Black South African. What we have here is the iniquitous inhumanity of the men over there on those benches, with their own homes to house their own families —I do not in any way wish to deny them these happinesses and these pleasures—who would be content to see others denied these basic rights and, if they continue to fight for them, or others continue to fight for them and support them, those who continue to fight for them—the journalists, the politicians, the trade unionists, whoever they may be—will be put in jail. This is the road towards which we are heading.
Recently I saw in Spain where a magazine writer was put in jail for advocating divorce. We know the prohibitions and the restrictions on the Spanish Press. We know there is restriction on criticism of the Government, criticism of the fact of poor men in jail, untried, members of the Basque Liberation Movement, and a complete suppression of various other attempts by people there to rid themselves of dictatorship.
I used to hear people talking about dictatorship and saying that it is not a bad idea because it brings a reaction and, out of that reaction, you get revolutionary changes. I do not share their view at all. I have a tremendous admiration for the appalling efficiency of dictatorship, once it is established, and its capacity to continue to survive. The expertise in the creation and maintenance of dictatorship is now pretty well documented. It is pretty well perfected and it is completely and totally frightening in its capacity, having destroyed the idea of free debate, dissent, criticism, disagreement, to see that it stays that way.
The Minister's over-simplification of the idea that these people must obey the law is so puerile that he cannot possibly have given serious thought to the underlying dangers in this sort of over-simplification, the principal danger being that we simply have his authority to tell us that such a law is a just law. Other speakers have referred to the number of just laws there are in Northern Ireland. They told us something, too, of the effect they have and the position of the minority there under these just laws, the position which has driven them and is driving them to the present state of impending anarchy, the position which is threatening the whole Six County area of the northern province of Ireland, the appalling, continual, widespread, unjust discrimination against the minority in that society, all carried out under perfectly, as far as the authorities are concerned, just laws passed by their parliament. If one comes into conflict with these laws then one is breaking these just laws. No houses, gerrymandering, discrimination in relation to the voting pattern, discrimination in relation to jobs and job opportunity, a complete and absurdly unfair pattern of senior positions in the various services, in administration, in the civil service, in the local authority, the police, the judiciary, and so on, but a just society as far as the laws are concerned.
In fairness to the North of Ireland, it must be said that it is possible for a newspaper to criticise these things and, by criticising, those who criticise encourage, and even advocate effectively, the breaking of these laws by the various devices mentioned by Deputy Keating. Simply to refer to breaches of the law is in itself a form of encouragement. But that is not to be so down here. Even that remaining privilege given to the minority in a grossly underprivileged society, the North of Ireland, is to be taken away down here. The privilege of having a Press which supports you in your distress and in your appeal against injustice, as you see it, against the callousness of the authorities in their discrimination against you, is to be taken away. With Hitler it was race and religion. In South Africa it is colour and race. In Northern Ireland it is again race and religion. But these are all just laws. These are the laws against which the Minister tells us that, because they are just, we must not comment, we must not criticise, we must not, by criticising, encourage and so advocate a breach of the law.
May I remind the House what are just laws? Again, based on race and religion, applying to the whole of Ireland, the laws that prevented an Irishman, because he was an Irishman, carrying his name, owning property, getting a university or a higher education, and the various other many laws which were designed to ensure that he became a second-class citizen in his own country, like the Jew in Hitler's Germany and the Black South African in South Africa today. The Penal Laws were all just laws.
The then commentator had no right to encourage anybody to break these laws. They went to jail too. The Minister for Justice's predecessors in power believed in the jackboot too, as we know to our cost as a race, simply by being of that race and professing a particular religion. It should be remembered that under similar laws the expropriation of the old Irish race and the consolidation of the estates took place. If a person did not agree with them he ended up in jail simply because he commented on them and because he encouraged, incited or advocated a breach of these laws. In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries one could have been reading the Minister for Justice's provision in section 7: a fine, imprisonment for six months; a fine, imprisonment for 12 months; a fine, imprisonment for three years for advocating, encouraging or inciting a breach of the law.Plus ca change, plus c'est la même chose. Here we have exactly the same thing. How little things have changed. The case I make always of course is that we never had any revolution, all that happened was that a small group took over at the top and the class structure of our society continued unchanged.
The Minister's case that because he makes a law ergo it is a just law I do not think holds water for one moment. There are many other illustrations I could give from all over the world and throughout history but surely the case is established. There are many editors, journalists, radio and TV commentators, politicians, trade unionists and clerical leaders of all denominations who may feel they must disagree with the Minister. They may wrongly disagree with or dissent from the Minister but to be able to do that above all things they must have the most precious right of democracy in even the most primitive sense, to differ. We are convinced the Minister is taking away that right in section 4.
While I support and welcome this amendment I feel it does not go far enough. The words "a person" means any person. It is a most far-reaching, global proposal that anybody who contests the justice of the provisions here —and we contest these provisions as being unjust—and disagrees and expresses that disagreement becomes a criminal liable to imprisonment. Surely this is a dreadful provision in a piece of legislation.
Think of the people covered in addition to those I have been talking about. Think of the great commentators and the great playwrights who have from the beginning of time right up to the present satanised the militanists and the warmongers of their times in their plays. Probably no country has produced finer and better playwrights than we have. One of the greatest social commentators—and from whom I learned a tremendous amount—was Bernard Shaw in his many critiques of society, made through the drama, in plays such asMajor Barbara, John Bull's Other Island, A Doctor's Dilemma—in the last named my own profession was satirised perfectly legitimately. Shaw, Brecht and O'Casey all come under this provision and any of them could have become criminals because they advocated that sections 2 and 3 should be laughed at, ridiculed and the subject of protest. Yeats in his defence of the Easter Rising would be another criminal to add to the long list of criminals created under this section. The great philosophers from Socrates to Bertram Russell advocated one thing, the right to concern oneself in the first instance with human conditions, the right to consider them, to question them, to state a case, to listen to the dissenting and to try by discussion and by debate to come to a civilised, considered decision which might advance a human being's understanding of himself in the society in which he lives.
I was surprised by Deputy O'Kennedy's comment, and I still do not understand it, that he did not believe that during discussion on a television broadcast if criticism was made, if encouragement was given by somebody on a television programme that that did not, in that way, involve the television company. I do not understand how that comes about because the fact that the television might be free from this prohibition in section 4 would be a very valuable advance in our community.
Probably the most valuable, effective, influential catalyst in the creation of a very much more liberal and tolerant kind of society here in the past 20 years has been the influence of the television commentators. We know that an attempt was made to control this terribly powerful mechanism for education, this device for propaganda and indoctrination by controlling the body which controls the company. It was mostly composed of people, of course, who were favourable to the Fianna Fáil Party and everybody knew that. But it went wrong. I confess I was surprised the first time I went on television when I noticed the extraordinary youth of the average person in television. This, when one thinks about it, was absolutely inevitable. Because of the youth of the whole art of television they had to be young people but, being young, they were necessarily rather more uninhibited, rather more radical. They tended to be iconoclastic, somewhat irreverent, not so hide-bound by the old clichés, attitudes and ideas which most of us grew up with and grew to know in the process of living in a society of this kind. Because of the fact that they had absolute control of the editing of the programme, of the choice of subject, of the pattern which it took, there is no doubt that they were influential in the very remarkable advances which have taken place in our thinking here. What we tend to discuss now would be subjects and attitudes which would be inconceivable only ten or 15 years ago. That we have reached that state of intellectual liberation I attribute largely to the influence not only of our own television but also outside television. That indirectly has stimulated the newspapers and we have got a very much higher quality of journalism. Political thinking, even though it is not as advanced as we would like it to be, is very much more advanced than what it was.
Probably the most outstanding of these programmes was one in which recently—I do not wish to discuss it now—effective attempts were made to emasculate, eliminate and embarrass the powerful force that it was, the television programme under Muiris MacCongail and to which our own colleague, Deputy Thornley, contributed so much during his time on that programme.
It is very important for all of us that we should fight as doggedly as we are trying to do any attempt to restrict the potentially wholly good influence of enlightenment and education which we expect from a good television service. We believe that an attempt is being made in this Bill to reduce the power of the television and radio service. I assure the Minister we will continue to oppose, in every way that we can, this attempt to diminish in a very serious and significant way this power of the Press, radio and television and involve ourselves in a meaningful way on different social issues under threat of fine or imprisonment.
Probably the most important source document for all of us is that extraordinary document, the Proclamation of the Republic, extraordinary because, of course, and it is rather apposite here to refer to it, this wonderful document was written and produced by a handful of very brave men while in forcible occupation of the GPO. For that reason, of course, they were criminals in the O'Malley style and they paid the supreme penalty. We have not got as far as that yet but they were criminals, this was a criminal document. That document guaranteed civil liberty and equal rights and, of course, we are concerned because we feel that the homeless person and his children are denied equal opportunity in contradistinction to the promise of that Proclamation. We can only believe that Deputy O'Malley has never read that Proclamation—that is nearly impossible to accept—or having read it, that he has never fully understood it and certainly if he did read it and understood it he has now, for some reason best known to himself, decided to ignore it. Not only that but in relation to the democratic programme of the First Dáil, which is the basis of the Fianna Fáil policy statements, this Bill equally implicitly denies all the undertakings and guarantees, in particular in relation to civil rights and the right and freedom to comment, the right to differ and the right to publish and print and the right to retain in all its components the serious, living, dynamic, creative, parliamentary democracy in Ireland.