Members of the Oireachtas, to-day, in the name and with the authority of the people of Saorstát Eireann, you enter into the fullness of your partnership in liberty with the Nations co-operating in co-equal membership of a great Commonwealth of free peoples. I meet you on this momentous day with sentiments of the deepest emotion, charged by His Majesty to associate myself as His Representative with the task which, after many years of hard-pressed claim, becomes yours, alone and unquestioned, by the effect of the Treaty made just a year ago between Great Britain and Ireland and subsequently ratified, the task of governing this State, of making the laws under which you are to live and of administering those laws for the happiness and well-being of all your fellow-citizens.
You have adopted a Constitution for this State and in framing that Constitution, while you have in careful observance of your Treaty obligations conformed to those modes of Constitutional expression and form which are common to your partner Nations and characteristic features of their Association in the British Commonwealth of Nations, you have had no other fetter on the exercise of a single-minded and whole-hearted determination to create for your country such machinery of government as seemed to you most calculated to serve her best interests most efficiently. You have just devised a Constitution under which the most patriotic yearnings for the re-creation of the national life and identity of your country in language and thought, in literature and art, for her progress along secure lines of social and economic development, for her assurance in prosperity, happiness and contentment are offered the utmost free play. You have been encouraged in your work by the support of your fellow-countrymen and women, who have testified in no uncertain manner their approval of and confidence in your efforts for the Nation.
Unhappily, a small number who have not yet bowed to the will of the majority, have engaged in hostile operations against you and have spread ruin broadcast in an attempt to impose their will upon the majority by means of terror and destruction. While failing utterly in their attempt to upset the Treaty so solemnly arrived at and to involve our country in renewed strife with Great Britain, these unhappy people have succeeded in striking deadly blows both at the economic prosperity and the political unity of Ireland, and thousands of persons have suffered individual hardships through their actions. The problem of unemployment—so pressing in many countries to-day—was certain to have been of smaller dimension in Ireland than in almost any other country, but has been enhanced to an incalculable extent by the fury of destruction and attempted disorganisation which is the manner of war now being waged upon the people. It must be your first and most urgent care to bring this disorder to a speedy end so that you may be free to devote your best efforts to the solution of the social and economic problems it has created or aggravated. In the meantime, my Ministers are giving their best attention to the working out of schemes for dealing with the problem, which they hope to have ready to submit to your active consideration so soon as the circumstances will allow of their being put into operation.
The Parliament of that portion of the Province of Ulster called Northern Ireland, taking advantage of Article 12 of the Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, has seen fit to present an address to His Majesty, by the effect of which the powers of your Parliament and Government have ceased to extend to Northern Ireland. Accordingly it becomes the duty now of my Government to take such steps as may be necessary for constituting the Commission which is to determine in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions, the boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland.
Legislation will be required in order to give full effect to the Constitution passed and adopted by your Constituent Assembly, and Bills will be submitted to you for that purpose. Among the first and most urgent of such Bills is one with the object of providing for the exercise of the franchise as enacted by the Constitution and a comprehensive Electoral Bill will be submitted to you at an early date.
The construction and establishment under the Constitution of a Judicial System specially adapted to the requirements of this country is a matter of immediate necessity. A committee of persons of expert knowledge on this subject is being set up immediately to examine this problem, and as soon as possible after the report of the Committee has been received and considered a Bill for the establishment of an Irish Judiciary will be submitted to you.
With the object of promoting economy and increasing efficiency a Bill will be submitted to you, providing for the setting up of Ministries under the Constitution and matters incidental thereto.
It is of urgent importance that an organisation for the maintenance of Civil Police should be established, with all proper training and equipment, and that it should be, in numbers and efficiency, ready to take over the guardianship of the public peace and security in the normal times which we earnestly pray may soon take the place of the present dislocation of social order. Already in districts where the National Army has completed its task against disorder the Government has despatched members of a force which it has raised and trained, under the name of the "Civic Guard," and which it is gratifying to know has been received with every indication of popular pleasure wherever it has appeared.
A Bill will be laid before you to provide for organisation and maintenance on a permanent footing of the Civic Guard and for the regularising of the position of those who have been already enrolled and sent forth to discharge these important duties to the public.
A Bill relating to your National Defence Force in time of peace will be shortly offered for your consideration.
The wanton havoc which has been inflicted on the country during the year and a half since the Truce with the British Forces carries with it the heavy responsibility of meeting the Bill for compensating those upon whom individually the suffering and loss have been inflicted.
A measure will be submitted to you for the purpose of improving the legal procedure in relation to such claims and of extending the jurisdiction of the courts in relation thereto, and of relieving local authorities from part of the burden, and also of making other amendments which have been found necessary in the Criminal and Malicious Injuries Acts. You will also be asked to pass a measure giving legal sanction to the work of the Compensation Commission set up to deal with pre-Truce damage.
The subject of the completion of land purchase in Ireland is engaging the earnest attention of my Ministry, and it is hoped that it will be possible at an early date to submit to you a Bill providing for the completion of this problem of urgent national importance.
A Bill will be submitted to you for the purpose of giving statutory sanction to certain improvements effected in the administration of Local Government and of Poor Law.
A Bill will be submitted to you, securing, by legal sanction, the amnesty and indemnity proclaimed by the late General Michael Collins in favour of the members of the British Forces engaged in the military operations prior to the Treaty.
The existing disorder prevents even the enforcement of decrees judicially made by various authorities and many suiters have thereby been prejudiced. To remove doubt and correct this mischief effective legislation has become necessary.
Bills will also be presented to you dealing with other matters consequential on the severance of government and our new Constitutional Status. These will include a Bill for the establishment of a Patent Office, and dealing with the law as to the Registration of Patents, Trade Marks and Designs, a Bill adapting the existing law of Copyrights; and a Bill or Bills providing for necessary consequential adaptations of other existing laws.
Members of Dáil Eireann, the Estimates of the sums required for the service of the Irish Free State for the year ending on the 31st March, 1923, will be laid before you in due course and in accordance with the provisions of Article 37 of your Constitution, and will require your most earnest consideration.
Provision for members of the National Army who have become disabled and for the Dependants of those who have laid down their lives in defence of the people's rights, is a national obligation, and with the object of suitably meeting that obligation a measure will be submitted to you at an early date.
Members of the Oireachtas, it is my prayer that the labours upon which you are now entering may be blessed and bear great fruit for our country.