CESSATION OF ACTS OF VIOLENCE.

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.

I have been asked suddenly and unexpectedly to second this proposal, which I do from the very depths of my heart. I am not an old speaker, and perhaps I may begin by saying that this is the second time I have been under the terror of shorthand writers, when one's most injudicious words are reported. The only time I have had that honour before was when suspected by Scotland Yard, and I was under examination by the most able inquisitors in England. This question, however, stirs me most deeply. There is scarcely a family in this country which is not divided, and it is that very division which should make us, if possible, seek to reestablish peace and understanding. I was speaking the other day to a man of the people who is occupied in a difficult and dangerous task. He told me half his family were out with the people on the opposition side, and he said the best and most honest and truest men in Ireland are there amongst them. I said: "Some of the worst." He said: "Yes, that is true." It is because these events are dividing us there is no living contact left between the people of the two sides. They think of us as being the worst of traitors, that we have sold our country for comfort, for convenience, for well-being, for cowardice, for I don't-know-what. We know we do not deserve that charge, that we have deeply in our hearts the feeling of our country and the determination for its full freedom and independence. We desire that the people should live in the fullest enjoyment of their own liberty, and that nothing of the slave mind should be left behind. But how can we tell them this when they see papers with garbled stories and with propaganda going out that makes it hard for them to believe when we cannot bring the living voice, that contact of personal feeling which often does more than the living voice, and when we cannot show them that we have the same care and the same desire, and the same respect for them that we would wish them to have for us. Therefore, it is a great pleasure to me, that at the first meeting of this new independent Seanad that has no authority over it, in fact, a new force brought into the country, that one of its first acts should be to devise the means of contact and friendly discussion, and so every one of us might use those great words, "I am amongst you as one of the servants."

I feel great pleasure in associating myself with the resolution. I feel at such a time as this, when we as a Seanad are meeting for the first time, if we could in any way effect a cessation of hostilities for the time of peace, that that, if nothing else, would make us honoured for all time. Everything in the country requires peace. Commerce, trade, agriculture— all is become prostrate, and so far as I read all that is required is a Committee that will be acceptable, as far as may be, to those we are approaching. I feel that when any of these people are approached in the spirit of peace the white light of truth may lead them to a cessation of hostilities, and once there is a cessation of hostilities that Ireland, realising her destiny, will never again resume the conflict.

I should like to say one or two words in regard to this motion. Personally I think the time is singularly opportune for a motion of this kind, particularly in view of the fact that the season of peace and goodwill is now approaching. Notwithstanding the fact that we have depreciated in morale as a result of fratricidal strife that is now tearing the country asunder, I believe that the approach of this season, which is common to all Christians, and looked upon everywhere as a time of peace, will not be without its effect on the minds of those who are arrayed in mortal conflict on opposite sides. From the workers' point of view the one hope of salvation is peace, because while unfortunately some elements in every community gain in some way or another by war, the workers, who live by the work of their hands or their brains, stand to lose in every instance. Apart from that material aspect of the case, we are appalled at the possible consequences of a continuation of the strife. The nation is drifting to ruin economically and socially, and from the point of view of its standing among the nations it has unfortunately lost that proud position which, as an old nation grown young once more in its liberty, it will take considerable time to recover. I believe the first act of this Seanad in appointing a Committee that, at all events, may be a means of communication between the opposing forces is one of the best auguries that could be, and one of the best services it could render to the nation. Consequently I have great pleasure in supporting the motion.

I would like to say one or two words in commendation of those who have spoken. The most horrible thing to me is the increasing apathy of the whole country in this matter. Years ago we were horrified at this idea of internecine strife of any kind. We did not believe it was possible. Then we began to abuse each other, but we still said "We can abuse each other, but we will not fight." We drifted from abuses into fighting, and we went on from that to the burning of houses and murder, and from that to reprisals, all the time being shocked at each thing that happened, but whatever happens now we take it as a matter of course, so that now there is hardly anything left to be shocked at. I think we have come to the climax of shocks. I have been meeting several of those who have been fighting on opposite sides in the hills and in Dublin, and I find that they are also shocked, and I think for that reason that this is a proper time to appoint this Committee. I know that the people on both sides wish this to end. They tell me so constantly, but no one seems to know how to make the attempt. Each side has certain words which they hurl at each other, certain proclamations and phrases on which they seem to think everything depends. They are shot out like bullets out of a machine gun. If you could get a little tenderness and softness of heart, and get the people together, and give over these phrases and verbiage so common amongst them, I think we may come to some degree of agreement amongst ourselves.

I should like to make one or two observations. Centuries ago it was the custom in Europe when nations were torn asunder by civil war, as well as by foreign assaults, that a truce of God was declared to hold during certain holidays, when arms should cease and men should live as Christians, and surely that is a necessity during the great festival of Christmas, when the birth of the Saviour gave joy to all nations and promised peace and happiness to men of good will. Then, I would suggest that we adopt this ancient custom and add it to the resolution that has been so manfully proposed that a cessation of arms should be declared during the festival of Christmas and the days following, in the hope that the memories of that season—and perhaps the grace from a higher world—might touch men's hearts and make them forget the present quarrels and the havoc of strife, and look forward to the day when Ireland should again be the sun of Europe and the University of the world. It is, no doubt, true that no nation perhaps on earth has been so apt to division and to strife amongst various factions. History proves that unfortunately, but if it does it proves something else—that in no nation in the world did the warring parties more rapidly coalesce or ancient wounds more rapidly heal. That we have to remember. Everywhere, north and south, after every invasion and every fight the people came together, and their records are that, so close were the ties of good neighbourhood and so genuine the feeling of friendship amongst the people of Ireland when they came together, that nothing could excel that bond of amity that was to be seen everywhere, and that you will see in the North, which has not been understood, and which has not been able to express itself. I have seen instances there where a Catholic entered into possession of a farm or a Protestant entered into possession of a farm. Their neighbours—Catholic and Protestant—would come and plough up the land or bring in the turf, or carry the harvest to the stack-yard. They are there still, and there are throughout Ireland the remnants of the men who made our country a nation, and of the Volunteers who at Dungannon declared for the emancipation of Catholics as well as the freedom of Ireland, as well as descendants of the men of '98, whose blood baptised Ireland with the sacred unction of Liberty. Now, throughout Connacht, Munster and Leinster, there is unquestionably that hidden flame of friendship which lacks only the opportunity that it may blaze forth and enlighten the world. Therefore, it is a noble thing to foster and tend that, in order that what has been a jarring cry may pass, and that Ireland may once more become a nation of which not only we may be proud, but which, as in ancient days, will be revered, honoured and respected amongst the nations of the world.

May I say a few words in this very interesting and very touching debate. There is no doubt about it, our whole nation is yearning for peace—is praying for peace. Look at what has happened at home—at the destruction which the Senator opposite has rightly said the poor and the workers have to bear the brunt of. Look at the position that our ancient nation now occupies in the face of the civilised world. The situation with us is too awful. It is not Christian. It is not civilised. Why should we, at this time in our history, kill one another merely for political differences? The situation is too awful and too terrible for anybody who pauses a moment to reflect upon it. What we can do I do not know—whether we can help towards peace in a practical way or not, but, at all events, we are coming near Christmas, and let this Seanad at least hold forth some invitation, some attempt at a golden bridge, whereby our warring countrymen may go and settle down in peace amongst one another. If we can help in the least degree we shall be blessed, and we shall be doing a real duty to bring a real blessing on Ireland. I hope some good may come from this resolution, which I am sure the Seanad is unanimously in favour of, and I am certain the country will support us with all their heart.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Before I put this resolution may I say, though probably transgressing a point of order, but comforted by the reflection that we have as yet adopted no standing rules, I think we are entitled to be very proud of the discussion to which we have just listened. I have seldom heard more eloquent or more moving or more appropriate speeches. None of them were too long, and all were to the point, and I think everyone here must be impressed by their power and their sincerity. God knows we all long from the bottom of our hearts for this approach and this holding out of the olive branch, so that, if possible, by the coming Christmas the great world message of "peace on earth to men of good will" may have a real meaning and a real significance for us. This discussion and this resolution will do much, believe me, to justify the constitution of this Seanad. It breathes the true spirit of independence and also the best spirit of brotherly love and good will, and if it accomplishes anything in the direction of bringing our fellow-countrymen together—even resulting in the temporary cessation of hostilities— we shall have done to-day a work for which in all time we shall get credit and honour from our people.

Motion put and agreed to.

I suggest that the Committee consist of the following Senators:—Mrs. Stopford Green, Mr. J.C. Dowdall, Mr. McPartlin, Mr. T.W. Bennett, Mr. James Douglas.

Agreed.