The Indemnity (British Military) Bill, 1923, is now before the Seanad. The Senators will remember the circumstances in connection with all Government Bills, as decided by our new Standing Orders. Automatically they are placed, on the Orders of the Day, and moved as from the Chair. The Second Stage of this Bill is now before the Seanad for discussion.
SELECTION OF NOMINATED SENATORS. - INDEMNITY (BRITISH MILITARY) BILL.
I think I had better, perhaps, say a few words on this matter, although I have spoken once or twice on it before. Yesterday we made arrangements to reconsider this Bill and to start discussing it afresh. Some Senator yesterday made the remark, with which I did not agree at all, that we had got ourselves into a certain amount of difficulty about it. I do not think the Seanad has got itself into any difficulty whatsoever in the matter. I think the action we took was the right action; not only was it the right action, but it was our duty to take such action. It was action that will, itself, have a very good effect. It has brought the matter up for public consideration and public discussion, and has put it in such a position that it will make it very difficult for those prisoners not to be released. I think, however, that in the resolution we have made to continue the discussion of the Bill and to pass it, that we have effected already all that could have been effected. We have brought the matter up for public consideration, and put it in such a position that the release of these prisoners can hardly be overlooked. Nothing more, I think, could be gained by holding up the Bill for another six or nine months, or whatever the term is. It is just as well now that, having taken the action we did, we should take up the Bill and pass it. With that object in view, I have put down a notice of motion proposing that we reconsider the Bill. I do not know whether it is necessary to go into any of the old arguments that we used before, pointing out that it is our right, and not our petition, that the prisoners should be released; that if we had any prisoners, which we have not, we would release them at once, whatever the conditions were, whether they were permanent prisoners or held merely in suspense, and that we are now asking for equality of treatment as regards all these prisoners. We are asking the English people to treat us as we would treat them, on the grounds of right and justice, and we simply point out that they are holding Irish prisoners whom they have no right to hold.
Am I in order in moving the suspension of the Standing Orders, so that we may take the Bill through all its stages to-day? If there is some procedure by which that can be done, I will move the suspension of the Standing Orders.
If that were done, we could take it the same as other Bills have been taken, with amendments, and so make the consideration of the Bill very short. It was my intention to take the second stage of the Bill, and then go into Committee. It would be quite in order, with the general consent of the Seanad, to take the Bill in all its stages. If there is not that general consent, the Chairman would hardly be justified in accepting a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
There would hardly be time to go through the Bill in all its stages. I have one particular amendment to move.
Do I take it that Sir John Keane wishes to press his proposal?
Not if any Senator wishes to move any amendment. I thought my suggestion would go through as an agreed proposal.
I have great pleasure in supporting Sir John Keane's suggestion. I think the time of the Seanad would be very much helped by acting in the manner he suggests. The Bill does not really bear further discussion, after the long and explanatory statement which we have had before concerning it.
As far as I can see there is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent us, without suspending them, from going through the Bill, section after section, as we did in the case of previous Bills. I should like to know if that meets with the general feeling of the Senators.
I beg to move that the Bill be adopted.