I beg to ask leave of the Seanad to move the resolution which has been circulated to the members, and which reads as follows:—
"That Seanad Eireann desires to record its conviction that the securing of internal peace is essential to the well-being of the Irish Nation. It, therefore, decides to appoint five Senators as a committee to consider, and if feasible, to consult with others as to the possibility of an immediate cessation of acts of violence."
I should like to say, first of all, that in moving this resolution I am acting on my own behalf and only on my own behalf. I know I have the sympathy of other Senators, but I mean that I am not inspired by the Government nor do the Government approve, nor have they knowledge of my action in moving the resolution that is here. I say this because I do not want this to be interpreted as what would be commonly called a peace move. It is not. I move it because I feel that it is right that this, practically the first meeting of Seanad Eireann, should have an opportunity of expressing what is in the heart and mind and soul of everyone in this country, a feeling that internal peace and the cessation of acts of violence is an absolute essential to our well-being. I do not propose to attack anybody; I do not ask you in this resolution to approve of anything that the Government has done; I do not formally ask you even to disapprove of anything. This will not prevent them from carrying out the policy for which they are responsible in the way which they believe to be best, but I do feel strongly that it would be a pity if this new body, which contains independent members, should not have an opportunity of expressing itself in a very simple form on this, what is admittedly the one vital essential problem before our Nation to-day. We have been reminded that it has been possible, and is possible now to put aside feelings of past differences. Some of us in this Seanad were on different platforms, between which points of view were acts of violence, and while these acts of violence continued we could not put aside our differences; we could not have met together for co-operation, and now I want to suggest that it is violence and not the political opinions of those who may differ from us that is the real barrier to co-operation and peace in this country to-day. Is it necessary to remind you of what this warfare and these acts of violence are causing this Nation? We know that we can scarcely hold up our head, internationally, because of what is happening; we know that it has weakened and has lessened the position that we proudly held a year ago as a nation; we know that the economic situation may become extremely serious; we know that it may lead to unemployment uncontrollable, possibly to starvation, if violence goes on as it does; we know it leads and is leading to loss of life daily, almost hourly. Even little children's lives are being sacrificed or risked in this holocaust of violence and of wrong. Far worse than that, and this is the one thing which I believe matters more than anything else in this country, these acts of violence are leading to a chasm of hatred between men who ought to be and who are, whether they admit it or not, common citizens of Ireland, and who ought to be brothers working together for the ideals which we mostly share in common.
Somebody, I cannot remember who, described hell as a place where everybody hated each other. We are getting very near a state of hell so far as some parts are concerned, and unless the people of this country are prepared to come forward to a man and to a woman and say: "You can hold whatever opinion you like; you can agitate in whatever way you like, but this violence must and has got to cease." Unless the people are prepared to do that then I suggest to the Government that their problem is an almost impossible one. It is very easy to come along and say the Government should have done this, or the Government should have done that. If I wished I could possibly criticise them, too, but I am not going to. What I want to suggest is this—that instead of criticising the Government, as most of us are attempting to do, if we would criticise the people, if we would tell the people that they are responsible, that they, and they only, can put an end to the violence, we might, perhaps, be achieving something. I wish from the bottom of my heart that my voice here, that the voice of this Seanad, could carry right over the country, that we could point out to those who are responsible for the violence something of what it means. You read in the papers the other day of two little children in a burning house. I do not know whether one of them will get better or not. I do not suggest for one moment that these men meant to do that, but they did it, and this holocaust means that you start off with the idea of violence achieving some good and you find yourself committing acts for which you cannot be responsible and which you did not mean to do. I cannot tell you, I wish I could, that any action of yours will lead to peace, but I do suggest this, that if we appoint a small Committee, not to start a peace move, for we have no right to do that, but which will give a gesture in a way to those who are opposed to us, mostly politically, that here is a small Committee who would be glad to talk with them as to how violence could be stopped —that is the need. We do not want political agreements; we do want a country in which there may be honest differences of opinion, a country at least, where people can live and speak and work together in peace. Some of us speak of the seven hundred years during which Ireland has struggled for freedom. Some of us even the youngest of us, have been dreaming of what Ireland might do when she had her own Parliament, when she was able to make her own laws. We have dreamed of a policy of reconstruction, and we have planned many things which we had hoped for, and what have we got? Destruction every day. Instead we ought to be spending our money, our time, our thought, and our lives in building up something worth while.
There is no day but that some property, some life, and good will, which is more important than either, is also being destroyed. I suggest that we should have a small Committee; that we should not ask it to report to us; that we should leave them quietly to do their work if they find any work to do; that at least we should tell the people that we believe that this thing ought to end and must end, and that reason and good will should take the place of growing hatred, agitation and violence, and that we are prepared to assist, if it be in our power. Might I again say that I move this on my own initiative, then, with a full heart, feeling that in much of what I have said I am speaking of the real longing of almost every man, woman and child in this country, and in the hope that our action here may lead to an echo somewhere. Let me give you one simple illustration of what this has cost us. I knew Michael Collins in the days when by many here he was not believed in, and I learned to respect and to love him for his great, big, kind heart, and this war has taken him from us. On the other side I knew at the same time Erskine Childers, and I learned to respect and love him for his unselfishness, and he, too, has gone. I could go on, one after the other. Violence takes the best and leaves the worst and it must be stopped, and I wish we all could say right out to the people, that it must be stopped and a way must be found. Mr. De Valera stated about twelve months ago that there was a Constitutional way of setting our differences. My Resolution simply says there is still a Constitutional way and we want you to help to find it. I am perfectly certain that there are many opposed to us politically who are longing for peace as much as we are, and it is to them that I personally appeal, though they are not here; it is through them that this Committee may be able to bring some peace.