Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 28 Jul 1971

Vol. 255 No. 15

Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Bill, 1970: Report Stage (Resumed).

(Cavan): I move amendment No.8:

In page 3, line 34, to delete "encourages or".

I hope, Sir, before I sit down to convince the House and the Minister that bad and all as this section would be with these words omitted it would be intolerable with these words in it. I propose to explain to the House the effect of section 4 in relation to sections 2 and 3. On a number of occasions since this debate began the Minister, for want of a relevant argument, thought it necessary to refer to the Second Reading of the Prisons Bill on the 26th May, 1970 and to a contribution made by me on that Bill as spokesman for this party. The Minister's copy of the Official Report of 26th May, 1970, has become somewhat soiled because he has handed it around to several Members on the back benches to read and discuss in the House. I wish to put on record now once more my contribution as quoted by the Minister. At column 110, Volume 247, of the Official Report of 26th May, 1970, I stated:

We have very unsettled conditions, restless conditions; the nation is perturbed by crime of all descriptions, ranging from armed bank robberies resulting in the death of police officers, to what might be regarded as something less, in the form of sit-in protests, fish-in protests, protests of one sort or another. I do not intend to dwell on this at any length but I think the toleration of the taking over of public or private buildings, whether as sit-ins under the auspices of cultural or architectural activities or sit-ins in protest against lack of housing or fish-ins as a national protest is nothing short of tolerating anarchy and can lead only to total disrespect for the law and to the common commission of more serious acts of violence. It is bound to generate disrespect for the law and for public and private property. I hope that the Minister, in entering his office, will tackle these problems as they should be tackled because they have been overlooked and tolerated for too long.

I wish to state that I stand over every sentence in that statement. If the Minister's fine-comb brigade had gone through Parliamentary questions around that time they would have found interjections from me would bear out what I said then. The Minister would not find it necessary to go back to the discussion on the Prisons Bill, 1970, to discover my sentiments on this matter. He could have found them in the Second Reading debate of the Bill now under discussion when I said that my party accepted in principle sections 2 and 3 of the Bill.

I invite the Minister or his researchers to find any contribution of mine in the Official Reports which invited the Minister to muzzle the Press, invited him to create the offence of guilt by association, or approved of the far-fetched and dangerous definition of "owner" as defined in section 1. I defy the Minister or anyone on his behalf to point out to me where at any time I even hinted the Press should be muzzled, that there should be guilt by association or that "owner" should mean an absentee landlord who was never entitled to occupation of the property. That is what section 4 is about. The fact that the Minister had to resort to quoting from a debate on the Prisons Bill for an argument shows how he lacks an argument to justify some of the preposterous proposals in this Bill. The most preposterous section in the Bill is section 4. We have always believed in an orderly society but this Bill has gone too far.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

(Cavan): As I was saying when the failure of the Government party to listen to reasoned argument was drawn to the attention of the House, I stand over my speech, as reported in the Official Report of 26th May, 1970. I do not believe in illegal activities. For that reason the Minister should listen to me and other speakers on this side of the House who tell him he has gone much too far, has gone unnecessarily and dangerously too far, in the Bill he has introduced, particularly in section 4. This section proposes to create new offences, to introduce repressive words and elements into a simple Act of Parliament and it proposes to muzzle the Press and the news media.

I would point out to the Deputy that on this amendment we cannot have a discussion ranging over all the topics discussed on amendment No. 7. Amendment No. 8 is in regard to the deletion of two words.

(Cavan): That might appear to be the case at first sight. But the whole essence of this amendment is to protect people who want to protest and to protect the news media which wants to highlight social injustices so that they will not be guilty of the offence of encouraging a crime under this Bill when it becomes law. With the greatest respect, if your ruling were to prevail I might as well sit down because the essence of this amendment is to delete the word “encourage” and, for that purpose, it will be necessary for me to tell the House exactly what the section means and to show over a wide range of activities how one could, if this word is not removed from the section, be guilty of an offence of encouraging a crime under section 2 or section 3 of this Bill and liable to a fine of £500 or a lengthy term of imprisonment.

It could not be in order to range over all the topics, as I have already pointed out. That would be repetition and repetition is not in order.

Repetition in relation to what?

There is a not issue contained in the Deputy's amendment and it is to the amendment the Deputy should address his remarks.

(Cavan): I hope that, if the Chair has a little bit of patience with me, I will be in order until I sit down. Section 4 of the Bill, as at present drafted, seeks to make it an offence to encourage or advocate the commission of an offence under section 2 or section 3 of this Bill. Section 2, as we know, is the section which makes it an offence for a person to forcibly enter land or a vehicle and section 3 is the section which makes it an offence for a person to remain in forcible occupation of land or a vehicle. As I have said, section 4 makes it an offence to encourage any of these offences under subsection (1). Subsection (2) of section 4 says:

Where a statement in contravention of subsection (1) of this section is made by or on behalf of a group of persons, every person who is a member of the group and who consented to the making of the statement shall be guilty of an offence under that subsection.

Subsection (3) is the extraordinary subsection which in certain circumstances means that evidence of membership of a group may be an offence of consent.

We are not, of course, at this stage discussing the section. We are discussing the Deputy's amendment.

(Cavan): Yes, and I must show how the section as a whole is very dangerous unless my amendment is accepted and that will be the whole basis of my argument. Now it has been stated from the Government benches by various speakers at different times that section 4 does not refer to the news media and that it does not refer to television or radio. The Minister said that. Some other speakers behind the Minister also said it. I was surprised when I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education repeating it. Of course, this section applies to the news media and it does mean that, by taking a particular stand on a particular topic which might be agitating the public mind, the national or provincial newspapers could be guilty, indeed, would be guilty, of the offence of encouraging a crime under section 2 or section 3. I do not think the Minister can seriously deny that. When he quoted my prisons speech, and when I asked him did I invite him to muzzle the Press, he replied: “There is not one word about the Press in section 4.” I defy the Minister, when he intervenes in this debate, if he does intervene, to argue that section 4 is not a net which catches the Press, which catches the radio and which catches television. Surely to goodness, it might be argued that there is no more powerful way of encouraging somebody to do something than by conducting a campaign in a newspaper. Thanks be to goodness, we have been blessed in this country with a responsible Press, both national and provincial, which has behaved magnificently all down the years and which has risen to the occasion——

They will give the Deputy a great write-up tomorrow. Think of another word for magnificent.

The Minister will get plenty of publicity himself in a moment.

(Cavan): Even if they do not I will not write a crabby letter complaining they did not report me.

It was a letter the Deputy did not like because it showed up his ignorance.

(Cavan): I will not write a small man's letter to the newspapers complaining——

The Deputy is two feet six inches over the ground himself.

(Cavan): Take your medicine now. You asked for it and you can take it.

A letter, every word of which is true.

A dishonest letter, dishonest by omission.

(Cavan): I will not write a sarcastic letter to the papers complaining that, “since the newspapers have been unable by reason of pressure of space, et cetera, to quote many of the points I have been making in the Dáil during the past two weeks, might I repeat here some of what I did say on the Opposition amendments” and then he goes on to trot out——

Go on. Read it all.

(Cavan): I will. And then he goes on to trot out some of the misrepresentations he made here to the effect that we were creating a new offence in our amendment No. 7 when, in fact and in truth, we were excluding the mass media from the clause in the Minister's section 4. There is no doubt, as the Minister well knows, that section 4 is a section calculated to intimidate the Press, to threaten the Press and to make the Press be careful lest they should be guilty of the offence of encouraging crime of one sort or another.

Mark you, I have no personal animosity towards the Minister, none whatever, and I have never said anything personal to him or against him since he came into this House but, if I were a newspaper editor, he is not the type of man I should like to have in a position to muzzle me, or in a position to tell me what to write or what not to write, and I do not think that can be regarded as a personal statement. I think the Minister demonstrated clearly and very forcefully in this House on 13th July, when speaking to his elder and respected colleague, Deputy de Valera, that he is not the type of man who should be put in a position to check the Press. That is not too strong a word.

Now, during this debate, we attempted to delete section 4 entirely from this Bill. On the Committee Stage we put down an amendment. We opposed the section. We voted against it. We did not think this is the type of section that should be in any legislation passed by a democratic assembly in the year 1971; but, despite our best efforts, the Minister, by his majority, successfully resisted our efforts to delete section 4. On Committee Stage of this Bill such were our views about section 4 that we did not seek to amend it. I do not think it can properly be amended. The only way to deal with it is to cut it out and remove it from the Bill.

(Cavan): We did not succeed. We put that to a vote. Such are the rules of procedure that we cannot again oppose it in toto on the Report Stage; it would not be in order, the matter having being decided on Committee Stage. Therefore, we did the next best thing. In amendment No. 7 we attempted to exclude the Press, radio and television from the offence of encouraging the commission of a crime. We hope to do that again in amendments Nos. 9 and 10. I cannot honestly believe that the Minister will get responsible members of his party to make a reasoned argument here against amendments Nos. 9 and 10 or vote against them, but if I were to discuss these amendments now I should be out of order because they have not been reached. We must lose no opportunity of ensuring that this objectionable section 4 will be amended if it must remain in the Bill. We want to ensure that the rights of the Press, among other rights, are protected. There are many other rights involved and I shall deal with them in detail later. There are the rights of Deputies in this House, the rights of local representatives on county councils and corporations and local authorities that we are told so much about. But we want to protect the rights of the Press to report and comment on matters of public importance.

Again, the Minister has successfully resisted our efforts to amend the Bill on Report Stage. This amendment proposes to delete two words, "encourages or". At present subsection (1) reads:

A person who encourages or advocates the commission of an offence under section 2 or 3 of this Act shall be guilty of an offence.

I clearly understand what the word "advocate" means; it means to call upon somebody to do something, to call on somebody to take forcible possession of, or sit in. I do not know what the word "encourage" means. It is a vague word that can mean anything—to hearten, to inspirit, to comfort, vague things like that. I was at a considerable loss to know where this word "encourage" came from. I am sufficiently experienced in the law—in a general sort of way I hasten to add—and in Parliamentary activities in a general sort of way to know that people who are drafting things look for precedents. The Minister knows that in a solicitor's office, if somebody is drafting an agreement which he did not come across before, he will say: "Would my uncle or my grandfather or somebody ever have had anything like this?" And he will look up old cases. If he cannot find what he wants he will go to an encyclopedia of precedents where he will find something that will help. I imagine Parliamentary draftsmen work on some similar basis having been instructed, of course, by the Government on the type of legislation they are expected to draft and on the type of sections they are to put into that legislation.

I did some considerable research on this matter and if I had the Minister's facilities I should probably have done much more. I went through the Acts since the foundation of the State and the only Act I found that contained the word "encourage" was the Offences Against the State Act, 1939. That leads me to believe that this Bill is patterned on that Act. This Bill is introduced to deal with a nuisance, an objectionable nuisance, I agree, but a nuisance. It is not a Bill introduced to deal with any extremely serious offences. I find that the word "encourage" appears in section 6 (2) of the Offences Against the State Act which prohibits the usurpation of the functions of Government. It appears in section 7 (2) of the same Act which deals with obstruction of Government. It appears in section 8 (2) of the same Act which deals with the obstruction of the President and it appears in section 9 (2) of the same Act which deals with interference with military or other employees of the State.

It appears in all those sections of the Offences Against the State Act, 1939, which was passed by the Oireachtas at a time of world upheaval when the second World War was either on or imminent. I respectfully suggest that it is a classic example of the Minister and the Government proposing to put on the Statute Book what is in effect a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

This word "encourage" appears in another Act, in section 2 (1) of the Treason Act, 1939, which deals with the crime of treason and provides a penalty of £500, which was a great deal of money then, or, at the discretion of the court, sentence of penal servitude for a term not exceeding 20 years, a fairly lengthy period of time. That in my opinion is where this word "encourages" comes in. It may appear in other Acts of Parliament and if it does I am sure we will have reference to them by the Minister when he intervenes. It certainly appears in the ones I have mentioned.

It is dangerous word. We understand what the word "advocate" means. To advocate is to call on a person to do something, to say that it is right to do something, to demand that something should be done or to speak in favour of something that is being done. One could encourage a legal squat or sit-in, forcible entry or forcible occupation in a variety of ways. The Minister has said it has always been an offence to incite a person to commit a crime. We agree with that but I would like the Minister and the members of the Fianna Fáil Party to consider this in a calm and collected way and try to forget that because a measure has been introduced into this House the Government's prestige is at stake and it cannot be amended substantially on principle.

I should like to ask the Minister, his party and the Government to consider that we are creating here a new offence or at least that we are writing into the statute law of this country in a clear and unambiguous manner the offences of forcible entry and forcible occupation. I do not disagree with the creation of those offences, as I have said as early as the 26th May, 1970, but we are now creating for the first time these offences. The Minister will not get away with saying that these offences have been there at common law. He will not even get away with saying that my esteemed colleague, Deputy Thomas F. O'Higgins, has stated they were there all the time at common law because the Minister has said that the Attorney General has said that he could not prosecute under those offences at common law and the courts would not convict anyone. Therefore, I think the Minister and myself are ad idem in saying that we are now for the first time creating in an unambiguous clearly cut and defined way the offences of forcible entry and forcible occupation.

I want to repeat that I do not quarrel with the creation of those offences but we must remember that the offences of forcible entry and forcible occupation, which are popularly known as squatting, first emerged in recent years to draw public attention to national and social problems—the failure of the Government to deal with the housing problem, which is a national disgrace, the monopolising of the fishing waters of this country by foreign interests and the destruction of buildings of an architectural value in this city and throughout the country. These are some of the problems which have been highlighted with what will be offences under this Bill. These are some of the topics that have been highlighted by what will be illegal squatting if this Bill goes through.

I would ask the Minister to bear in mind that the problems of the housing of our people, monopolising of the fishing waters of this country, the destruction of beautiful Georgian buildings in this city and buildings of architectural value throughout the country were not highlighted for the first time by these activities which the Minister is to declare illegal. The national and provincial newspapers of this country have campaigned for years for better housing for the people. They have campaigned for years, both in editorial comment and other comments, which the Minister resorts to now and again, for better housing for the people, the protection of buildings of architectural value and for the liberty of Irishmen to fish in Irish waters without the permission of foreign landlords.

Those are some of the matters that have been agitating the minds of Irish people for years and some of the causes that have been championed by the newspapers of this country for years. Are these newspapers to cry a halt to their campaign for better housing, fair play for fishing and for the preservation and protection of buildings of beauty just because somebody chooses to indulge in illegal activities to further the same campaign? That is what we are doing here. The newspapers have been reasonable in their campaign for years, but because somebody decides to indulge in illegal activities in furtherance of the same objectives the newspapers are being muzzled.

That is not right.

(Cavan): I have made the case that the newspapers have been campaigning for those matters in a reasonable way for years. Let us take the case of the Hume Street housing and let us assume that this Bill had been law. If the Irish Independent, the Irish Press or the Irish Times during the currency of the Hume Street protest had said: “We have been calling for years for the preservation of these buildings. We protested against the destruction of Fitzwilliam Street and the replacement of the buildings there by the ESB monstrosity but the Government did not listen to us. Now look what has happened”, would that not be encouraging a continuance of the Hume Street sit-in and would those newspapers not be guilty of an offence under this Bill? I ask the Minister to reply to that in a reasoned way and I will not accept an argument from Deputy Davern—I do not think it is fair for the Minister to put in Deputy Davern——

He is just as entitled to speak here as anybody else.

(Cavan): Of course he is.

The Deputy would like to muzzle him.

(Cavan): Deputy Power is entitled to come in and make a case on behalf of the Government.

And the Deputy would be critical afterwards.

(Cavan): I would expect some heavyweight from Fianna Fáil to come in with a reasoned contribution, speaking from experience either as a parliamentarian or a lawyer, making a reasoned case against what I am saying. I believe it simply would not be possible for him to do it. Not alone are newspapers to be prohibited from commenting on social injustice but they are to desist from the legitimate campaigns that they have been carrying on since Fianna Fáil came into office.

The Deputy knows that is wrong.

(Cavan): I do not know. They will be permitted to comment provided they denounce the squatting——

(Cavan):——provided they denounce the forcible occupation, but they will not be permitted the luxury which we all enjoy of saying to the Government: “I told you so. We have been preaching for years that there should be better housing, that the Georgian buildings of Dublin should be protected and you did nothing about it.” Can the Minister deny that that would comfort and encourage the squatters to say: “We are doing a good day's work”?

Of course I deny it. The only thing that is forbidden to the newspapers is the encouraging or advocacy of indictable crime and the Deputy must know that.

(Cavan): I will sit down for five minutes solid if I have the right to stand up again if the Minister tells me that is not so.

Encouraging or advocating mean much the same thing as inciting.

(Cavan): Stick in “inciting” and leave out “encourage”. That will meet some of my objections. It has been difficult to get the Minister to agree to anything. Of course if I say anything in favour of the newspapers it will be said that I am looking for advertising space, but I will not follow the Minister's headline when he wrote a letter to the Irish Times the other day. I will not write and tell them off if they do not publish me. We have a responsible national Press and a responsible provincial Press. I suppose there is no more responsible provincial newspaper and one with such a large circulation as the Anglo Celt, affectionately known as “The Celt” and published in Cavan for many years. We are very fortunate that it is the only local newspaper coming into practically every house in Cavan. If this section goes through, that paper will be told to catch itself on, to be careful to desist from ventilating problems that need ventilation.

I have dealt at some length with the Georgian houses, with the housing problems and with the fishing disgrace, because they are things about which protests in the form of occupation of premises or land have taken place. But it does not stop there. I said on another amendment that the national newspapers and the provincial Press wield a bigger influence in changing Government opinion than does this Parliament and, like Deputy Cooney, I regret to have to say that is so. We have had examples of it in the past 12 months. We had the proposal of the Government to cut off unemployment assistance for single men, urban and rural, of any age.

What has this got to do with the amendment?

The Deputy is ranging wide of the amendment.

(Cavan): Fan nóimeat. Never did a newspaper campaign reach such magnificent heights. Never did a newspaper campaign humiliate a Government so effectively. Never did a newspaper campaign so succeed in convincing a Government that they must change their mind, that they were embarking on social injustice of the worst type. If this Bill were law and if, four or five days after that magnificent performance by the newspapers, a number of people were to take possession of a labour exchange and lock themselves in, am I not correct in saying that the editors of the newspapers would find themselves locked in a different building, to wit, Mountjoy?

The Deputy certainly is not. If somebody else were to make these suggestions I would put it down to ignorance, but the Deputy knows enough about the law to know that this is nonsense.

(Cavan): As Deputy de Valera said on 27th July: “If there is any doubt about it put it beyond doubt.” They are the words not of the Irish Times or the Irish Independent but of the son of the founder of the party of which the Minister is a member. I suggest there is no doubt in the world that following that campaign by the newspapers, in which Deputy Joe Lenehan and Deputy O'Connor and others joined, editors of newspapers could find themselves in prison. I defy contradiction of that.

We had here a threat of internment without trial. Again the newspapers rose to the occasion and again I will not be misrepresented or told that we on these benches are demanding something impossible. We are demanding the enforcement of existing law, of law available to the Minister. We are demanding that the Garda Síochána be given free and unfettered rights to enforce the laws this Oireachtas has passed and which do not need any special resolution to bring them into force. We believe that internment should not be enforced here until the existing law as it prevails has been enforced or has been seen to be unworkable.

On that occasion the newspapers rose to the occasion. When the Taoiseach in his usual waffling way, trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, threatened internment, the newspapers rose magnificently to the occasion and the Taoiseach climbed down. If that had happened after the passing of this section the newspaper editors could find themselves locked up for encouraging the offence under sections 2 and 3 of this Bill.

What has internment to do with sections 2 and 3?

(Cavan): I am thinking of what would have happened if, following one of the Taoiseach's famous speeches, the leading articles in the leading newspapers stated that internment should not be enforced or brought into operation until every other existing law had broken down and that nobody would or should stand for it. If after that a number of people locked themselves into a building in O'Connell Street as a protest against the Taoiseach's speech, would the newspapers not have been accused—and rightly so if this was the law—of encouraging the squatting or forcible entry?

They would not.

(Cavan): I do not want any general statements from the Minister. Whether I am right or whether I am wrong, I am trying to make a reasoned speech and I will expect a reasoned speech from the Minister in reply. I do not believe that this offence of encouraging catches the Press alone. We know that Deputies can say what they like within the House and they are not amenable to any court in the country, civil or criminal, for it, and until the Constitution is changed that will be the law, but if a Member of this House elected by the people were to go outside and make a speech denouncing some social injustice, and if somebody, as a result of that speech, felt so strongly that he committed the offence of forcible occupation in my opinion that Deputy would leave himself open to the offence of encouraging, and he would be guilty of an offence for which he could be imprisoned.

That is my honest belief. The Fianna Fáil-controlled national newspaper, the Irish Press, believes that there is, at least, a substantial doubt about it. I believe that that is beyond doubt and that a Deputy would be guilty of an offence and could be imprisoned. Deputy de Valera controls the Irish Press and he at least believes that this point is open to argument. He says that it should be put beyond argument. Does any Member of the Fianna Fáil Party disagree with that as a reasonable proposition?

There has been, since 1898, in this country a body of dedicated public representatives who work in the public interest without reward and who do not enjoy parliamentary immunity which Article 15 of the Constitution grants to us. I speak of the members of the Dublin Corporation—God be good to them—the members of Cork Corporation, the county councils, the urban councils and even the town commissioners, the committees of agriculture and the vocational educational committees, all of which from time to time have considered it their duty to express their views on matters of public importance. Their rights as legislators and creative beings have been whittled away down through the years by successive Acts passed by Fianna Fáil Governments. It would be very difficult to know what the purpose of their existence would be if they were not allowed to talk.

Section 4 of this Bill means that if a committee of agriculture, indignant at the purchasing of land in their locality by foreign speculators, were to have an animated discussion at a meeting and to say that they objected violently to the intrusion of foreign speculators while their neighbours were left with 15 or 16 acres of land, and if, as a result of a good speech properly reported in a local paper, somebody decided to stage a sit-in or forcibly enter some foreigner's farm or some farm in the course of being sold to a foreigner every member of that committee of agriculture would be guilty of an offence of encouraging and could be locked up in Mountjoy and would not have the protection of Article 15 of the Constitution. Is that an unreasonable argument? Is that an unreasonable proposition to make? I equally believe that if a member of a housing authority were to say at a meeting it was outrageous that buildings should be converted into offices in a town where human beings were living in rat-infested hovels, that could be judged as encouraging people to take possession of a building that was proposed to be used as an office and they could be charged with an offence under this measure.

I am not a scholar in English literature and I am glad we have such scholars in the House who will be able to analyse the meaning of the word "encourage", but if it means anything in ordinary men's language—and it is ordinary men's language which will be applied in the courts because the parliamentary draftsman, acting on the instructions of the Minister for Justice, did not think it worth while to define the word in the Bill—surely it means creating a frame of mind where some people think they should do a certain thing. Is that not a reasonable interpretation to put on it? If a speech such as I have outlined were made at a county council meeting or such body and if possession of a proposed office block were subsequently taken and forcibly held, every member of the county council or the urban council or anyone who made a speech would be guilty of an offence, and if the law were carried out they should all be prosecuted and convicted. The same would apply to anyone who is a member of a local authority and who feels very strongly about the fact that some fisheries are owned by foreign interests.

If he were to conduct a campaign from meeting to meeting—and, indeed, outside of meetings in his capacity as a public representative—if he were to stand up outside the chapel gate on Sunday and say that these were natural assets in this country, that they were amenities that belonged to the people, that they were created by God and that they should be available to the people; and if as a result of that somebody said: "There is a lot in what Councillor So-and-So said. We will take possession of this. We will go in and stay there and take the consequences" and a member of the Garda Síochána asked him to account for his activities he would have to explain: "I was at the chapel gate on Sunday and I was listening to Councillor So-and-So and I believed every word he said." Would Councillor So-and-So not be charged with this vague offence of encouraging the commission of a crime?

And I predict that ex-Deputy Martin Corry will be one of the first victims of the Minister's legislation.

(Cavan): Far be it from me to mention that man's name in this House. It is all right for Deputy Barry. I think a measure like this that will affect the lives of the people all over this country should be debated in a cool atmosphere and that every Member of the House, including the Members of the Fianna Fáil Party, should understand what they are being asked to vote for. Indeed, the Members of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party and their supporters throughout the country are more to be pitied than laughed at during the past 12 months because they have had members of their own party speaking to them on questions of national importance in different tongues, and I am sure they find it extremely difficult to know where they are going or who to believe or what party policy is.

I know that a general discussion on Fianna Fáil policy or the ructions within the Fianna Fáil Party would be out of order and I am not going to pursue it, but I feel bound to make some reference to the plight in which the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party must find themselves in this House. A senior member of the Government, the Minister for Finance, Deputy George Colley, went to talk in the town of Thurles to a Fianna Fáil assembly and he thought it necessary to make reference to the Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Bill. It would be difficult to see how any senior member of the Government could go to any Fianna Fáil function and get away without mentioning it. I am sure that if he did not decide he was going to catch one of these nettles the Taoiseach talks about, he would have been asked to do so before he left. According to a report in the Irish Independent of Saturday, 24th July last, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Colley, said:

The Forcible Entry Bill threatened no one but those who despise democracy, said the Minister for Finance, Mr. Colley, in Thurles last night. The Bill was an attempt to uphold democracy by backing up law and order, he told a Fianna Fáil meeting.

He went on to say:

It is characteristic of our organisation that we have the courage to do what needs to be done. Some of our political opponents whine about law and order and then scream like scalded cats when they get it. That has been our experience with the Forcible Entry Bill.

The Bill, according to the Minister for Finance, affects nobody except those who attack democracy. It offends nobody only those who despise democracy. I can imagine some Fianna Fáil stalwarts in my constituency reading this and saying: "Is Deputy Fitzpatrick not a terrible bowsie taking up the time of Dáil Éireann opposing section 4 of a Bill that has been brought in by Deputy Paddy Smith to uphold democracy in this country and offends nobody only fellows who want to destroy democracy?" I would not blame him. Would he not be expected to believe Deputy George Colley, the Minister for Finance, one of the challengers for the leadership of the Fianna Fáil Party, a decent man. Behold the plight of the constituent who read that in the Irish Independent of 24th July and who got the Fianna Fáil gospel of 27th July, three days later, in a leading article published with the approval of the son of the founder of the party who, he believes, saved Ireland.


(Cavan): I have to put this on the record because it is highly relevant. The same man reads on 27th July a leading article in the Irish Press published by the editor with the approval of the controlling director, Deputy Vivion de Valera, a respected Deputy of this House, and I hope we shall hear him before this debate is finished, a son of the founder of the Fianna Fáil Party. It reads as follows:

Very few pieces of draft legislation——

How does the Deputy know he wrote it?

(Cavan): I did not say he wrote it. I said it was written with his approval and under his control because he is controlling director.

I should not be surprised if he did write it. His sentiments were expressed anyway.

(Cavan): I want to put this on the record because it is good:

Very few pieces of draft legislation——

I thought at first it was "daft" legislation, but it is "draft" legislation.

——have ever attracted such attention as the Forcible Entry Bill which today will apparently begin its final trundle through the Dáil.

From being a proposal to deal with the circumstances created by the activities of certain persons who used the housing situation, to stage "squats" to further their own political ends, a situation has been allowed to develop, over the retention of a few words in section 4 of the Bill, into a massive debate on the freedom of the Press with the Government cast in the role of bogeyman seeking to undermine one of the bastions of democracy.

This should never have been allowed to happen, but it has and it is sobering to think of all the Dáil time and energy that has been devoted, not to discussing how the root cause of the matter, our housing problem, could be eradicated, but, when it comes down to it, nothing more than whose interpretation of the relevant section, concerning press comment, is correct, the Opposition's, or the Minister's.

It may be that the Minister's interpretation is correct and that the law would be interpreted intelligently and without prejudice to responsible press coverage or comment. But on the other hand, the future might also show that the contrary would be the case and that the law would in effect be inimical to the freedom of the Press. This, of course, would be intolerable and when a doubt of this magnitude is raised, the sensible thing to do is to leave out the cause of the doubt.

Without going into legal niceties, it should have been possible before now to devise some formula of words whereby fair comment and reportage, be it pictorial or otherwise, on a matter of public interest would not be inhibited. Some amendments of this nature have been proposed and at the beginning of this, apparently final, passage of the Bill through the Dáil, these or some variant of them, should be put into effect.

We have some enormous problems confronting us, the deteriorating situation in the North is but one. Having the Dáil's time taken up with one easily alterable section of a Bill, whose retention is being fought for and against with the ferocity of a rear guard action in the field, will not help us to deal with these problems. Let us now have that suitable alteration, and let us get on with the Nation's business.

There is a man who has his priorities right but, again, behold the disciple of Fianna Fáil——

Which man?

(Cavan): I do not know how many of them you have. Behold the disciple of Fianna Fáil who reads the Irish Independent of 24th July and the Irish Press of 27th July. How is he to make up his mind whether this section is good or bad? How is he to make up his mind whether this section is harmless or dangerous? How is he to make up his mind whether my amendment No. 8 should be accepted or rejected? Let us go to the ordinary rank and file of the Fianna Fáil Party. Deputy Power is a sensible, educated man who has a great deal of grass root common sense I would say.

And weight in the party.

And keeps his hair on all the time.

(Cavan): Age will deal with that in due time. I should like Deputy Power to reconcile these two speeches. I should like Deputy Power or even Deputy Carter, who is not a bad man to put up an argument——

Tell us who wrote the leading article?

(Cavan): When Deputy de Valera comes in here and denounces and disowns it I will say he did not write it.

He has been to the Taoiseach's office twice today asking him to accept the amendment.

I do not think he is entitled to.

That is in the proof in front of the Parliamentary Secretary.

(Cavan): I would like Deputy Carter to reconcile this speech and this leading article——

Is the leading article a matter of debate?

(Cavan):——and say on the strength of which of them he is going to troop into the Lobby against my amendment. That is the situation we find ourselves in at the present time. That is the position that we find the time of the House being taken up with here. It is not good enough that a controversial piece of legislation like this involving the discussion of amendment No. 8 to eradicate a dangerous word in a section should be discussed here in an atmosphere in which some people can be blamed for delaying the holidays of the staff of this House when what, in effect, we are doing is protecting the newspapers, the members of the vocational education committees, the members of the committees of agriculture and public representatives in this country from the threat of imprisonment for doing what they consider to be their duty and for bringing on something over which they have no control.

The Deputy knows that is nonsense.

(Cavan): I do not know it is nonsense. That is the desperate part of it. I could understand a man being put in jail if he said that somebody should trip Deputy Lemass, that somebody should burn somebody's house or that somebody should commit some other crime, but I cannot tolerate a situation which exposes a man to imprisonment because he does nothing more——

Than encourage and commit and advocate the commission of an offence under sections 2 and 3.

The Parliamentary Secretary has no authority to read the Minister's brief.

I have, indeed; I would not be here otherwise.

Well, read it correctly; it is not "and", it is "or".

(Cavan):——than expose a social injustice and draw attention to something that needs to be remedied and because he does that somebody over which he has no control reacts in a certain way. I want the Minister to consider this and deny it.


This Bill starts in Ballymun.

Deputy Fitzpatrick is in possession; interruptions are disorderly.

(Cavan): I am told by Deputy Lemass and others that there is no danger of unreasonable prosecutions being brought against people for encouraging this, that or the other thing. We have many examples of Ministers in this House working themselves into a white fury over the mass media.

We had the "7 Days" programme on moneylending which if it erred at all erred in a matter of degree because it wanted to show in a theoretical manner an abuse that was in this city. Anybody who has appeared in a play in a parochial hall knows that if one puts something on a stage at ordinary life size it will then appear much less and what had to be done was to project it to the people. A former Minister for Justice came in here and behaved in a way which in my opinion showed that in his thinking if he could give these fellows who had put on that programme the cat o' nine tails it would not be too severe for them. If he had had this measure at his disposal, what would he have done? That is the situation in the light of which we must consider this word "encourage".

The Minister has said ad nauseam that it has always been a crime to incite a person to commit a crime. I have dealt with that and I do not want to labour it again. This is a new crime the essence of which is dealing with public opinion and something that is agitating public opinion. Deputy Carter is here. I hope I am not a man for saying things behind people's backs. I listened to Deputy Carter speaking on this Bill and I get the impression that he believes that the Press can go and have gone too far, even in advertisements, sexy advertisements and so on. He thought it should be necessary to tell them where to get off. That is what this section is all about but I do not believe that the Press of the country have reached the stage where they should be told where to get off or where they should be fettered or muzzled. I intervened in Deputy Carter's speech because I took that to be the trend of what he was saying.

The Deputy is misquoting.

(Cavan): I am not quoting at all but paraphrasing.

The Deputy is putting a false construction on what I said, as is typical of lawyers.

(Cavan): When I hear people criticising lawyers I always remember an old woman who came to me——

Leave the story and come to the point.

We have a new Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

(Cavan):——and she told me how she was working for somebody who was not paying her very well. As a result of my efforts she got a lot of back money that was due to her. Before leaving my office she shook hands with me and said: “Goodbye, sir, and God bless you; if it were not for the like of you, the poor would not be let live.” I take a certain amount of pleasure and prestige out of that.

As a result of your efforts to get for her what she was entitled to. Pauper politics.

The Chair will point out that interruptions are disorderly.

(Cavan): Deputy Burke described me the other day as being a charitable man. I shall continue to be charitable.

The Deputy does not sound charitable at the moment.

(Cavan): I am only indicating what was the effect on me of Deputy Carter's speech. He thought the Press were all right so long as they behaved themselves. Deputy Tunney, another responsible member of the Fianna Fáil Party, referred to erring journalists in the sense that they should take some of the blame. This trend is much too prevalent in Fianna Fáil speeches for me to give them——

I wonder if the Deputy would quote at greater length from what I said?

(Cavan): I wrote it down at the time.

I do not think I used the word "erring".

(Cavan): If, when the Deputy reads the debates, he finds that that word does not appear, I shall withdraw it.

I understood that when a person claims to be quoting from the Official Reports, he is obliged to give the reference.

(Cavan): I am not claiming that.

If a Deputy purports to be quoting there is a responsibility on him to give the reference, but if he is only paraphrasing there is no such responsibility.

(Cavan): I hasten to say that I am not quoting from the Official Report but I am giving to the House a verbatim note that I took while sitting here during Deputy Tunney's contribution. Of course, if the word that I have attributed to Deputy Tunney does not appear in the Official Report, there is nothing I can do about it.

The Deputy should not misquote.

(Cavan): I am not misquoting but I know that I hit a few bull's eyes here and there.


At this stage the Chair must insist that interruptions cease. The Deputy in possession will make his contribution and other Deputies can do so in their turn.

(Cavan): I shall not bother any further with Deputy Carter's sexy contributions.

The Deputy knows that I do not traffic in sex.

(Cavan): The Minister has made a speech on this Bill and on this particular section of it. If he is correct, he wants to get at subversive groups or individuals. If that is so why does he not exonerate and write into the Bill, and put beyond doubt as Deputy de Valera of the Irish Press says—lest Deputy Lemass should be offended——

I would say as the Irish Press says——

(Cavan): I am glad to hear that the Deputy is beginning to have doubts about it.

Does he not agree with Deputy de Valera?

Deputy de Valera is not proved to have written the article.

(Cavan): If the Minister wants to get at subversive groups he should write into the Bill a section exonerating newspapers, radio and television.

And members of the Fine Gael Party.

(Cavan): Yes, Members of Dáil Éireann. I have no wish for selective justice. Every Deputy should have the right to stand up at a chapel gate and make a speech.

He has that right.

(Cavan): If, during a controversy, whether it be in relation to housing, agrarian dispute, fishery, dole or internment, any Deputy stands up and says publicly that he believes there should be better housing, that the people are housed disgracefully or if he says that the people of Ireland are entitled to fish in Irish waters or——

Shoot the tinkers, as Deputy Donegan would say.

(Cavan): Maybe Deputy Donegan has an excuse for shooting the tinkers. I suggest to Deputy Carter that in any of the circumstances I have mentioned if any Member of this House were to make a speech of the nature I have mentioned, he could, under section 4 of this Bill, be charged with incitement, with advocating and certainly with encouraging the commission of these crimes. That is what I am apprehensive of. In dealing with a contribution of mine on the definition of ownership, the Minister for Justice was kind enough to say that he had given it great thought because he accepted that I was gravely concerned with the matter. I am speaking about section 4 in the same frame of mind in which I spoke on that occasion which was on the Second Reading of the Bill.

In conclusion, I must say that the Minister for Justice has made it impossible for Deputies to go along with him in the general principle of this Bill which is supposed to protect the occupier of property because first, it does not give immunity to the occupier of property and, secondly, it has this notorious section taken practically in toto from the Offences Against the State Act of 1939 and the Treason Act of the same year which seeks to restrict Press comment on matters of public interest. It seeks to create the offence of guilt by association and to make it an offence for a person to be a member of a group if any member of that group commits an offence in violation of this section, unless that member gives a satisfactory explanation to the court; no matter what explanation he gives to the court if the court is satisfied, having regard to all the circumstances, it may accept the fact that he was a member of the group, or the association, as a fact that he consented.

Those are my reasons for urging that this amendment is necessary. I shall find it necessary later on to urge that amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are equally necessary and I think that this House would be guilty of a terrible dereliction of duty in letting this Bill on to the Statute Book as it is at present. We may be accused of making lengthy speeches, of making irrelevant speeches, but when we find members of the Government going into the country and making speeches such as that which the Minister for Finance made in Thurles, then the necessity can be seen for prolonging this debate and ensuring that at least the record is there to show that we appreciate what is at stake here and that we have done everything we can to prevent this section remaining in the Bill. We are doing no more than our duty and we will continue to do it.

We in the Labour Party have great pleasure in supporting this amendment. It seems to us that this is possibly the key amendment on the key word of this Bill. This, in general, is a most objectionable Bill. Section 4 is the most objectionable section and the word "encourage" with all it implies is the most objectionable word in this objectionable section of an objectionable Bill. We think this amendment is of the highest importance. It is the critical amendment, perhaps, of all the amendments tabled to Section 4. We have been led by words pronounced by the Minister here today to entertain some hope that the Government may at last be coming to their senses and that this whole section will be withdrawn.

The common sense is on the wrong side of the House.

The Minister, intervening while Deputy Michael O'Leary was speaking, inquired whether we on these benches, in the Fine Gael Party and in the Labour Party, we who have offered sustained opposition to this section, have offered detailed amendments, would drop our opposition if section 4 were dropped. As it happens I had tried to deal with this question earlier in this debate. If I may refer the House to the Official Report for Friday, 16th July, last, Volume 255, column 1755.

The strong arm boys did not meet Seán Sherwin.

I was referring to the possibility of section 4 being dropped and to what we on these benches would or could or should do if it were dropped. I think that is a very critical, important question at this stage of the discussion. None of us, and I am sure that this applies to the Fine Gael Deputies, too, wishes to protract unnecessary debate. That is not what we are doing here. We are in earnest, we are fighting an objectionable section of an objectionable Bill. The question has been raised, and I think this was a legitimate question for the Minister to raise: "What would you do if I dropped section 4?" In advance of his having raised that I referred to this possibility at the column reference I have just given. I referred to members of the Government who, I believed, disapproved and still do disapprove in their hearts of this iniquitous, unnecessary section of this unnecessary Bill.


I said there are those of them who are alive to such dangers. I do not include the Parliamentary Secretary as a gentleman who is alive to anything in particular at the moment.

The Deputy is putting me to sleep, if I may say so.

I think perhaps it is not me.


If Deputies interrupt they run the risk of being answered. I am sorry. I do not want to discuss this aspect. I want to discuss the section.

I thought the Deputy was going to put me to sleep.

I have no objection at all if the Parliamentary Secretary does not interrupt in his sleep. If he does interrupt he will be answered and I think it is not advisable that he should continue.

Deputy Cruise-O'Brien.

I said to those members of the Government whom I believe to be alive to the real dangers in this Bill that these are not only dangers to the public but they are dangers of a kind which affect this Government much more directly. They are not worried about dangers to the public. There are dangers to this Government in this Bill. These are not what we are worried about but they must be worried as they see the Press they are getting and they are increasingly bound to get on this matter so I appealed to them in the public interest, not in a specific Opposition interest, but in the public interest to drop this section. I went on to say:

I do not say that if they drop this section or if they accept this and the following amendments we shall drop our opposition to this Bill, we will not.

It is very unusual for a Deputy to quote himself.

I have quoted my earlier remarks to the effect that we would not drop our opposition to this Bill even if this section were dropped because we object to the whole Bill and we have said so. However, I went on:

We in the Labour Party will vote as we are committed to vote against this Bill.

I would draw the attention, if I may, of members of the Government, of this House, perhaps of the Press, to this passage not because anything that I said in an earlier speech was particularly important but because it becomes particularly pertinent at this time, this very critical moment when we want to know are they going to come to their senses and drop this section or are they not. That is the only question we are concerned with now and everybody in this House, on Opposition and Government benches alike, will, I think, breathe a most hearty sigh of relief if they drop it.

No, we will not.

I went on:

I would say that if section 4 is dropped now or if the amendments to it are fully accepted there would not be very much purchase for further argument against this Bill.

This is misprinted, I am afraid, in this copy of this issue of the Official Report as "purpose" but what I said was:

there would not be much purchase for further argument against this Bill.

I would repeat these words. There would not be much purchase for further argument against this Bill and I hope that members of the Government Party will get that message.

The debate would instantly and automatically become much shorter if this section were dropped not as a result of any bargain, corrupt or incorrupt, with the Minister but because this is the section that is most objectionable. This is the section on which we must press amendments and on which we must talk about amendments at very considerable length. On this key amendment we propose to continue the debate at very considerable length because the words involved— encourage, advocate and incite—are key words and their implications must be explored at great length if the section is intended to stand.

I have said that if section 4 is dropped—and the Minister did suggest the possibility that on certain conditions this might be done—we would still have to vote against the Bill. However, the debate would not be anything as protracted as it threatens to be. At column 1755, Volume 255 of the Official Report dated 16th May, 1971, I stated:

I would say that if section 4 is dropped now or if the amendments to it are fully accepted there would not be very much purchase for further argument against this Bill. We could not go on arguing forever about the difference between a £5 fine and a £50 fine. The difference is £45 and everybody knows it, there is not a great deal more to be said about that; but there is a great deal more and a great deal that ought to be said about section 4 and about these amendments and we are determined to say these things.

We shall say these things however long it takes us. We do not want to say them at length——

More power to the Deputy.

Deputy Cruise-O'Brien should be allowed to continue without interruption.

In the same column of the Official Report I stated:

As long as it is within our resources we shall continue to fight this Bill as hard as we can and as long as we can until we convince the governing party of the need for these amendments and the need to drop section 4.

When will the Deputy come to his speech?

I shall come to the rest of my speech in due course.

We hope the Deputy will be here to listen to the speech.

If it is necessary we shall talk at considerable length, not repetitively and not irrelevantly to the amendment. However, all of us could be put out of our misery by a clear announcement from the Government benches that they are giving up on section 4.

It would be better if the Deputy put us out of our misery.

That is what we are thinking of doing.


I have already told Deputies that Deputy Cruise-O'Brien should be allowed to continue without interruption.

I can understand that Deputy Carter and others would prefer the discussion on this amendment to end. However, I have no objection to the Deputies opposite wasting their time on this Bill if that is what they wish to do.

We are only helping the Deputy. He wants to remain speaking until 10.30 p.m. but he has nothing to say.

The Deputy is right if he believes I am not going to sit down before 10.30 unless, of course, the Parliamentary Secretary were to announce in clear, unambiguous terms that section 4 is being withdrawn. In that event there would not be any need to talk about these amendments.


I have already asked that Deputy Cruise-O'Brien be allowed to continue without interruption. Will Deputies please refrain from interrupting?

We are stressing the need to press these amendments, and in particular this amendment, not alone for the sake of the amendments themselves although there would be much discussion on them. However, there is another aspect which is important, namely, that the Government must learn not to attempt to thrust a worthless and mischievous section such as this on this House and on the country. The only way of teaching the Government this fact is to make it uncomfortable for them. Of course, they say it is not uncomfortable for them; with a merry laugh that does not quite ring true they say they are prepared to sit all through summer. We shall make them do that——

And Charlie is in Paris enjoying himself.

(Cavan): I understood he was brought back.

It is extraordinary that the Deputy in possession is not allowed to speak.

Whatever else comes out of these amendments on section 4 and out of the unhappy initiative the Government have taken, one fact has emerged and I would draw the attention of the Press to this: any attempt by the Government to gag the Press will be resisted in this House to an extent that will make it exceedingly uncomfortable for those responsible for that exercise. Even if they grind down these amendments, even if they bulldoze this section through the House—as they can by the majority they still possess, wobble though it may from time to time—even if all that happens——

We will not speak about the Deputy's absent friends or his own long absences.

——we will not have quite as much in the way of dangerous consequences from this section as would have been the case had it been allowed to pass with only a token debate. The fact that the opposition to this pernicious section has been sustained and effective, has been carried on jointly and in harmony by the two Opposition parties and has received the overwhelming support of the Press, is in itself a guarantee that this will not be tried again in a hurry.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 11.30 a.m. on Thursday, 29th July, 1971.