The motion before the House is: "That the Public Safety (Emergency Powers) Bill be read a second time."
DYESTUFFS (IMPORT REGULATIONS) REPEAL BILL, 1923. - PUBLIC SAFETY (EMERGENCY POWERS) BILL.—SECOND STAGE.
Might we have the numbers of the division?
27 for and 13 against. Does any Senator wish to speak upon the motion that this Bill be read a second time?
You put the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. I understand now that both the Land Bill and the Public Safety Bill are concerned in that suspension.
Your understanding is not correct, Senator. I tried to make it perfectly plain that the division was only conversant with the Public Safety Bill, and that the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders in regard to the Land Bill when it comes up would have to stand or fall on its own merits. If no member wishes to speak on the question of the Second Reading of this Bill I will put it to the House.
I rise to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. When it was introduced in the other House it was admitted by the Minister in charge of it that the main reason for its introduction was because of the fact that, owing to a state of war ceasing to exist, it was essential that powers should be taken by the Government to enable them to keep in prison certain persons who were already interned. I suggest that the reasons given for the necessity of the Bill are the very reasons why it should not be necessary to introduce such a Bill, because if a state of war has ceased to exist, as we all sincerely hope and pray will be the case for many generations to come, there is no necessity at all for a measure of this kind. This Bill could properly be described as a Coercion Bill, because, in the first place, it gives the Minister power to make an order for the arrest and detention without trial of a citizen. It gives the Minister power to make an order for the imprisonment of one of our citizens merely on a statement made by a subordinate officer. By a Military Commandant or a Police Inspector simply making a statement to the Minister, the Minister is enabled, if this Bill is passed, to have such person arrested and detained without trial. I said before when we were discussing a Bill of a similar nature that I believed that every man and woman ought to be assumed to be innocent until they were found guilty, and, whatever justification there may have been while a state of war was existing for people to be arrested and detained without trial or charge preferred against them, I say that, the state of war being happily ended, thank God, there is no justification whatever for such a measure. Further than that, I want to say that it would be no new thing in this country for innocent men and women to be arrested and detained on secret evidence given against them, and I suggest that at this time of day no provision ought to be made giving any responsible Minister or any Army Commandant or any Police Inspector power to take away the liberty of a subject of this nation on mere whispered evidence. We know that during the late Anglo-Irish war, when the system being carried on by the British authorities here became known among the Irish soldiers it was put to the test, and that secret evidence was supplied against persons who were in the employment of the British authorities, and we know that on this secret evidence their houses were raided in the dead of night. Under this Bill a similar thing could be done. I am not suggesting for a moment that there is any intention to do so, but I say that if this Bill is passed the power is there to do so. Section 5 of the Bill deals with the penalties for certain offences, and, from the little knowledge I have of the law, I think that this is attempting to do what was never done before in a civilised country.
The responsible Judge of a Court will not be allowed to use his discretion as to making the punishment fit the crime or of deciding whether or not in certain cases leniency would be justified. It is laid down in the Bill that the Judge shall inflict a certain penalty. I say that this is a poor measure of freedom. We have dreamed and hoped that the time would arrive when the people would be allowed to live their own life in their own way without interference from any outside influence. Surely we never dreamed when we talked about freedom that it would come to this, that we are going to lay down that a Judge in a Court shall have no discretion as to the punishments he shall give; that everyone guilty, or assumed to be guilty, of a certain crime will get this punishment, whether it is deserved or not. I respectfully suggest that we ought not to pass this Bill. I do not see any necessity for it. I believe if it is passed that it will be an everlasting disgrace. I believe, now when we are beginning a new period in our history, it will be a blot on our civilisation, and if we cannot live our life without having recourse to such a measure as this we ought not to be allowed to live at all.
I hold no brief and I make no excuse for an armed man who robs anyone. I do not believe in guns at all. Would to God that all the guns in this country were brought out and dropped into the ocean. Guns will never settle anything, and I do not believe in them. I hold no brief for a man who robs because he is in the possession of a gun. I hold no brief for a robber whether he has a gun or not, but I suggest that the law as it stands at present is capable of dealing with any person who offends against it. There is power under the existing law to make the punishment fit the crime in all cases, without having to introduce a measure of this kind. I say it would be a blot upon our civilisation if at the beginning of a new era in our country one of the first things we did was to pass a measure of this kind.
I regret one is obliged to make speeches or discuss this Bill without any proper consideration. But it is forced on us, and whether we like it or not we must discuss it, apparently, so I had better say a few words on the subject. This Bill is of a twofold character—it is a political Bill, and it is also a crime Bill. In so far as it is a political Bill, it means that the Minister is to have power to lock up every adversary he chooses and everybody who is of a different opinion to the Minister. This is to be done during the elections, in fact, to prevent a number of people voting, and even if some arrangements are made for their voting, these men will not be able to vote properly in prison. As far as it is concerned with punishing miscreants and looters, I have nothing to say against it except in so far as it is unconstitutional The object of mixing up these two questions together is, I suppose, the usual one of trying to get Senators of different opinions to vote for it for different reasons.
To my mind, it is in direct opposition to the Constitution. I do not think it is necessary to make any statement on that. If you read Sections 6, 7, 70, and 72, you find every one of these sections of the Constitution are contrary to the present Bill. If it is a war measure, there is something, perhaps, to be said for it. If it is to amend the Constitution, there may be something more to say for it. I would like to know from the Minister which he intends it to be— whether it is a war measure or a measure to amend the Constitution. I think it is very important that we should know that. I do not think it can be a war measure, because nearly all the powers are at present possessed by the military, and the Judges are included in this measure. The military have got nearly all these things that are asked for, and therefore I suppose it is not a war measure, but a measure to continue the war after the war. The Ministry supposes that this war will not be recognised by the Courts, and if, in their opinion, there is no sign of war that Judges will refuse to give habeas corpus, or admit these irregular rules that are being put in force by the Army. The Ministers see that. They foresee that the time is coming shortly when the Army will not be able to exercise its powers as it does now.
The object of this Bill is to continue these powers, and to give the Ministry the powers hitherto held by the Army. It seems to me quite clear that that is so. This Bill is either unconstitutional or a war measure. If it is unconstitutional, I should like to hear the Minister state so. If, on the other hand, it is an attempt to amend the Constitution under Article 50, this is not the way to do it; the statement ought to be made in the preamble that it is intended to alter the Constitution. I personally regret opposing any Bill which may be supposed to be for the public safety, but this Bill is so violent, so extreme, and so unnecessary that we are bound in honour to oppose it. I am not one of those who shrinks from taking grave and serious measures in case of emergency. I have not opposed such or wished to oppose such. On the contrary, I backed up every measure proposed by the Ministry in the state of affairs we have passed through, because the whole future of the nation was bound up in the necessity of keeping peace.
If you are pushed into an extreme corner you are bound to take any measures, to go back to the position of the primeval man and defend yourself with your club under these circumstances. But these circumstances no longer exist, and that is why I think it is a very serious matter to try and push this measure on. No doubt there is some sporadic crime through the country at present, but there is no civil war, and it is civil war really that determines these matters. The emergency that confronted us is over, and I believe that, if properly and wisely dealt with—that is, dealt with by statesmen—this war and these troubles are ended, and that the small crime that is going on from time to time will end under proper management. Before one embarks on these measures and gives such terrible powers to lock up your adversary whenever you wish, I think it is necessary to inquire who are the people who wish to have these powers, and also the circumstances and the agents whom these men will employ. I confess that on not one single one of these points am I at all satisfied. The power given, to put it roughly, without going into the question, is that any Commandant of the Army—I confess I do not know what a Commandant is; at the present moment he seems to be hovering between a Major and a Captain; and it is a rank I have not been accustomed to, but I presume he is senior to a Captain —any man senior to a Captain can, on his ipse dixit, lock up any man he likes, simply because he is supposed to have some reasonable suspicion.
We all know what reasonable suspicions are. I wonder is there anybody in the Seanad that somebody has not got a reasonable suspicion about. I am sure many people have reasonable suspicions about me. I know that people in the past had reasonable suspicions, because I have been locked up. Whether the suspicions were reasonable or not I do not know. Anyway, that is what a Commandant in the Army can do, and he can do it just before the elections. We know the particular trouble that comes on before an election, and we know what violence is. A Commandant in some out-of-the-way part of the country may say the day before the elections "If I locked up all these people in jail for the next week it would be a splendid thing; it would get rid of a lot of trouble." That is what will be done.
These are the sort of tricks that have been played even before this time. I remember long ago it was customary in my part of the country when an election came on for one side to lock up all their electors and the other side used to take off the people who were going to vote against them to the islands and keep them there until after the election. In a modified way things have been done like that ever since, and they will happen again. You will have these Commandants who have strong political opinions locking up a whole band of people who manage the election on the other side, agents and everybody else. The Minister goes a great deal further, because he can lock them up for six months on reasonable suspicion. How does reasonable suspicion arise? The Commandant's reasonable suspicion is communicated to the Minister, and the Minister's reasonable suspicion locks a man up for six months. I know something about these police dossiers. There are to be stated reasons I believe. These stated reasons will be put in the dossier.
I remember that shortly after the Rebellion people were arrested in Ireland wholesale, and whenever they wanted to arrest anybody the police were always prepared with a good fat file concerning his conduct for the last ten years. One day he walked about with somebody who was suspected, another day he walked with somebody else. All these things were piled up and arranged very carefully. They were systematically built up so that however innocent a man might be, if one were to read this he would appear to be a dangerous man. I remember there was a batch of men at that time—some of them perhaps in the Ministry at present—and the Government of the day were trying to lock them up. I happened to be with a person of influence at the time who was not favourable to that opinion. He asked the Chief Secretary "What are we going to lock these men up for?" and the Chief Secretary told him that they were all dangerous people, and that there was a lot of correspondence to show this. This Officer said: "Yes, I have got a file of correspondence here on the subject which I have looked through, and I see that it is arranged in such a way that anybody might be arrested on it." He refused to allow them to be arrested. I hope we have Ministers and Commandants who will do the same, but I am afraid it will not be so. I should like to know whether these stated reasons are going to be shown to the prisoner or whether this is going to be a Star Chamber arrangement. Are they going to be stated reasons which the Commandant will make out in this way and transmit to the Minister, and is the unfortunate man not to have any means of challenging this or showing his rights? I am told he has a right of appeal to a Committee appointed by the Minister. I should like to see a Judge on that Committee, or people with legal knowledge. There are plenty of people in this country with legal knowledge. I have not too much faith in any lawyer, but some of them, I suppose, are all right. I certainly should like to see a man who is respected and known to be an independent man—a Judge or somebody of that sort—appointed on that Committee.
The situation at present, as we all know, is that the enemy have dumped their arms. The Ministry have been boasting of how wonderful they are, and how well they put down the rebellion, and of the peace and order and progress that has come about in the country. The Postmaster-General two or three days ago stated that there was less crime in Ireland than almost any country in Europe. In the middle of that peace and progress and notwithstanding the Postmaster-General's statement we are asked to pass the Coercion Bill. It is not only a Coercion Bill but one of the most violent Coercion Bills ever put in force in Ireland by anybody. I see no object in it. The Courts are functioning. Military Law is always abolished when Courts are functioning and they are functioning now, normal conditions having come back. If fairly conducted in peace conditions I believe that we shall have elections which will be accepted by everybody. But if it is not so, if we have this Bill, and if people are locked up and we have not peace and good-will, we will have bitterness and anger, and, perhaps, even rebellion for the next five years.
I do not think that anybody claims that the Ministers are supermen, have knowledge of all these matters, and are men of moderation. I do not think their best friends say that. Their friends say they are doing the best they can, and I believe that is true. I wish to be fair to them, and I say they have shown great courage in a great emergency. I give them full credit for that, and they deserve our thanks for it. But I do not know that they have shown great wisdom at the same time. I think this war might possibly have been avoided. I think it might have been ended before this if there was more wisdom shown. However, everybody cannot be both wise and brave, so they did their best. I do not want to say much against them, but I object to any person in Ireland being made a sort of Pooh Bah or Lord High Executioner, and ordering anybody he likes into gaol—into the Bastille or wherever he likes—just like the Red Queen in "Alice in Wonderland," who, whenever anyone made an accusation against anybody else, said: "off with his head." So the Minister is going to say: "Into the Bastille, there to remain until I let him out." The powers that are being taken now are similar to the powers for which many many people have suffered execution. Charles I., Louis XVI., and the Czar Nicholas have all been executed for exercising such powers. I think we might also consider who has put this country into the dreadful position in which it is now. Going back a year or so, who is responsible for it? I remember just before the last election, President Cosgrave made a speech in Kilkenny. He was supporting the Pact which they then had with the Republicans, and the reason he gave for doing so was a very peculiar one.
Is it in order to discuss the Pact?
I think it is going a little too far. I would ask the Senator, more particularly, not to be making references to individual Ministers, particularly absent Ministers.
I am not discussing the Pact. May I ask what absent Minister you refer to?
I think you were discussing some of the speeches of President Cosgrave.
I mentioned his name, but there was no animadversion. There was no disagreeable criticism. I merely wished to quote a statement he made because I want to show who is responsible for the war.
I do not want to curtail your observations, but you will remember that other Senators will want an opportunity of speaking in this debate?
This debate is one of the most important that could be brought on. I am only speaking a few minutes, but if I was able to speak for three hours the subject would merit it.
I am afraid I could not allow you to do that.
I think I am not out of order in speaking for the length of time I am likely to speak at present. A certain Minister declared at that time that the reason why they should be given power at the last election was because both these parties, the Treatyites and the anti-Treatyites, had got the country into such a mess that they ought to be allowed to get it out of it. I confess I thought that a very odd reason to give. Anyway, the country did give them their opportunity. How did they fulfil the contract? By getting the country into a far greater mess than before. At all events, at that time we had not a Civil War. We have had one since. Neither of these parties have done very well by us in that way. I do not want to compare officers of the Army with the officers of foreign armies, but I do not think the people would like these commandants to have these powers. I believe that the people have not sufficient confidence in them, and that the commandants are not men of sufficient experience to be entrusted with any such powers. That is why I object. Moreover, it must be remembered that this is a partisan army got up for a special purpose. Who could blame them? I do not blame them for having partisan feelings. They have been fighting a war against enemies who were shooting at them. Under these circumstances it is perfectly impossible to expect that they should not have strong personal feelings and not be inclined to do things which otherwise they would very likely not do at all.
I regret to say that I see no hope of peace in this country unless an entirely different attitude is taken up by Ministers than that adopted up to the present. We have this sort of business going on, putting men into prison, violent propaganda, and abuse of one another. The Minister here knows that I have long opposed this method, and that I raised the matter before the war began. I said it would have very bad results and lead to bad temper. I believe this war was caused more than anything else by bad words and bad tongues on both sides. As far as I can see this Government has only got a policy of violence and vituperation. I want to see all Irishmen becoming friendly amongst themselves and joining together after the election—as I hope they will. I believe all parties will do so if they are wise. I want to see this election accepted by the people as a verdict of the people.
A good many of the arguments advanced by Senator Colonel Moore could, I think, be more properly treated in Committee. In Committee a great many of the points would be taken up, and probably Senators who have spoken in favour of them would have found a good deal of support. The Bill as we all know has been under discussion in the Dáil for something like two months, and any of us who followed the debates there have had ample opportunities of studying the principles of the Bill and learning the reasons which induced Ministers to form certain deductions and put forward certain claims. I intend to confine myself in the few remarks I am going to make to these principles, and the reason why I, at any rate, will give support to the Second Reading, without committing myself to saying that I will support every detail. That the powers asked for are far-reaching to a degree, I think there is no doubt. They can only be justified by the exceptional circumstances of the times in which we are living. That there has been a vast improvement in those conditions within the last few months is acknowledged on all sides; but, to assume, as we might be inclined to do, from the apparent quietude on the surface, that our difficulties are at an end, and that there is little likelihood of any serious resumption of hostilities, the Minister for Home Affairs tells us, would be foolish to a degree. After the terribly anxious and arduous times experienced by the Government during the last year, we may be quite sure that no one would more genuinely welcome a return to normal conditions than they, and that it is only dire necessity that forces them to appeal for extraordinary powers.
To credit them with some ulterior motive in asking for these powers, or to openly accuse them of being actuated by vindictiveness against their political opponents—as some members of the Dáil have done—is so preposterous an argument, in the face of their long suffering attitude towards those who have been opposed to them, that it carries with it its own refutation.
It is to be seriously thought that the continued detention, which is provided for under this Bill, of the thousands of men and women who are in custody to-day, many of them on mere suspicion, and the possibility that many more may be similarly interned under the new procedure, is likely to commend the Government to the general public, much less to win the support of the electorate at the forthcoming elections? With the elections so near at hand, the Government, had it studied its own interests only, would have left this Bill severely alone. One of the strongest arguments, in my opinion, for our placing the fullest confidence in their judgment is the probability that they are jeopardising their own return to power rather than abandon their convictions as to the absolute necessity of this measure.
The Minister in charge of the Bill has told us in the clearest possible language that although a certain number of arms and munitions of various kinds have been brought to light by the military there has been nothing like a general surrender of arms or other articles of war, and that there are abundant supplies in almost every part of the country whose whereabouts it is almost impossible to locate owing to the lack of information from the people in the district.
In these circumstances the Minister has told us that unless we are prepared to see the country plunged again into the chaos from which it has just emerged it is absolutely essential to be prepared for any emergency that may arise; he has warned us that the apparent tranquility of many parts of the country may render it difficult to justify martial law much longer, in which case the military authorities would be deprived of their present powers and the prison gates would be thrown open to the greater number of those who are now interned, and of whom it is to be feared many would not be slow to stir up trouble.
To provide against such a contingency he asks that the Executive should be vested with practically all the powers that the military now have for a period of six months, before the expiry of which time he hopes it may be possible to revert to the ordinary procedure of the law. To entrust any man, or body of men, with such plenary powers over the liberty of the subject is undoubtedly a course from which one would naturally shrink, but "desperate diseases require desperate remedies," and we cannot avoid facing facts. We know for ourselves that up to a few days ago the authority of the Government and its right to represent the nation were still directly challenged by the few Republican leaders who had spoken, some of them even going so far as to hint that the cessation of hostilities only meant a little breathing time, and that should the election go against them they would again take up arms.
With his usual slimness and duplicity Mr. de Valera in his latest bombastic pronouncement—full of sickening allusions to his "love for Ireland and her honour and glory"—says that, so far as he is concerned, "the war is finished," and that in future he intends to devote his energies to the promotion of the social and economic development of the country, and those sentiments are echoed by his valiant henchman, Miss MacSwiney. I think you will agree with me that coming from the lips of those who have instigated and inspired one of the most bloody and brutal campaigns of destruction that any country ever witnessed, who have done everything in their power to ruin not only the Government itself, but the economic life of the whole nation and who have saddled it with a burden of £50,000,000, such sentiments can only increase our scorn and contempt for those who utter them. God grant that, come what may, this internecine warfare is indeed finished, but if it is it is not due to anything that Mr. de Valera or his followers have said or done, but solely to the undaunted fearlessness and steadfast determination shown by every member of the Executive, and to a lesser degree by every member of the Oireachtas, in facing and combatting the unexampled horrors to which I have just referred. Now that the Government has gained, if not victory, at least the upper hand, and that the only way of getting a grip on the country is to claim the powers which the military possess, do not let us imperil the fruits that have been gained at such a sacrifice of life and treasure by withholding from the Executive any powers in regard to the internment of suspected persons which they have asked for in this Bill.
Senator Moore, speaking on this Bill, said that owing to the fact that there was not another day to discuss it he had not given it the consideration it deserved, and therefore he was not able to speak as he would have spoken to-morrow. It seems to me that whatever view we take of this Bill, whether we oppose it or support it, we would have failed in our duty if we had not given every clause and every section of the Bill our careful consideration. In my opinion this is the most important Bill which has come before this Seanad, a Bill which if we refuse to pass, would have consequences which we might have carefully to consider, and a Bill which, if we do pass, may have consequences the responsibities of which we cannot get away from. We have no direct control of the Executive and this is the first occasion on which we have been asked in any way to concur or support or approve of the special powers which were given to them during the past few months.
I doubt very much if there is a single member of either House who does not heartily dislike this Bill. I doubt if the Minister who introduced it would be prepared to argue for the Bill as a Bill, on its merits apart from circumstances, and therefore I think it is essential that we should discuss the Bill not so much from an abstract point of view as to whether we should support particular clauses, or as to whether they are just, but whether there are circumstances which would justify the whole or part of the Bill. A member of the Seanad drew my attention to a rather striking quotation from Burke who said of Government:—"Every virtue and every prudent act is founded on promise and barter. We balance inconveniences. We remit some rights that we may enjoy others. We choose to be happy citizens rather than disputants, but in all fair dealing a thing bought must bear some proportion to the purchase paid." It seems to me in considering this Bill that we should consider it not so much as to its merits but as to whether there may be circumstances which warrant it. Day and night I have given consideration to many clauses of this Bill. I do not want to be egotistical, but it has given me the greatest possible amount of uneasiness, partly because I do not suppose it actually breaks the Constitution, but it undoubtedly enacts things which were not intended by the Constitution, when the Constitution was framed and passed by the Dáil. Therefore, to some extent at any rate, the passing of it weakens our position, but, at the same time, in considering it I have tried to consider it so far as possible placing myself in the position of the Government. First of all, I tried to make up my mind as to whether any Bill at all was necessary. My first consideration was that no Bill was needed, but on further consideration I came to recognise that some Bill, regularising the position of the Government, was the inevitable result of the failure to reach an agreed peace a few weeks ago. Senator Jameson and I had an opportunity, as we reported to the Government and the Seanad, of having conversations with Mr. De Valera, and he made it perfectly clear that at that time he foreshadowed that in all probability there would be no more fighting, but he said emphatically that he would not, and his followers could not, recognise this Government as the lawful Government, and that, therefore, they would not hand up their arms to it. On the other hand, he stated that a Government elected on adult sufferage would be a Government which ought to be obeyed, and one to which they could hand their arms. I recognise that position, and I honour him for the fact that they had the wisdom to stop, and not to continue fighting until the bitter end.
That fact rendered the position very difficult for the Government. They were placed in the position that if they were to release all those in prison they would be releasing persons who stated that they could not recognise or obey them, and who would not give up their arms, and who also refused to give any undertaking that they would not take up arms against a Government elected by the people. I hope that anything said here will not in any way lessen the possibility of peace in the future. By peace I mean not agreement, but all points of view, Republican or any other, being fairly and fearlessly expressed without resort to arms or any claim or threat that there is a right to resort to arms. The object and aim of the Government ought to be, to restore at the earliest possible moment a state in which the Constitution, with its principles of liberty, could function freely and without interference. That should be the aim of the Government, and I should like to say that I very much deprecate statements which are sometimes made outside the Oireachtas and in the Press, suggestions that in consideration of matters of order and law we should not vote against the Government.
I have not been able to agree with all the Government thought fit to do, but the Government is the Government of the country to-day and to it I owe allegiance. Their failure or success affects us, and we cannot separate ourselves from the Executive. We may not have full responsibility for all their actions, but they are our Government, and we are bound to give full consideration to measures of this kind, and if we criticise this Bill I think it should be perfectly clear that we are only criticising it because we want, if possible, to achieve the aim stated in the Preamble of the Bill. If we take the Preamble we find that the object of the Bill is, so far as possible, to transfer the military Government to the Civil Government. With that aim I am in absolute accord, but when I come to consider the Bill I find myself in very considerable difficulty.
Someone has said here that the Bill may practically be divided into two parts. I quite agree. I am sorry there are not two Bills. The first part deals with powers of internment whether or not there be a state of war. The second part deals with special powers for the punishment of offences which have, at all events, been prevalent in this country. With the principle of the second part I have no quarrel.
There are details, however, which I think will require very grave consideration. Personally, I am very sorry that they thought fit to reaffirm capital punishment. I think the suggestion now is that after the war has ceased there may, possibly, be sentences of death. I am personally opposed to capital punishment. Also, though I do not feel as strongly on it as on the matter of capital punishment, I thought it was unnecessary to introduce the flogging parts of the Bill. They are not essential parts, and it is a misnomer to call it a Flogging Bill. The fact that men are caught is the real deterrent. Flogging will not be the deterrent, but rather the fact that people will combine to catch the criminals. Another blot is the one which Senator Farren referred to, and I think it is a very bad thing to take away for six months the discretionary power of the magistrate or judge. If I read the Bill rightly I find that, for example, if my own boy climbs over a wall to steal apples and were caught and found guilty there would be no option in dealing with him but to inflict the definite punishment laid out for damage to property. I find also that anyone who aids the offender to escape must be sentenced to a minimum of imprisonment for a year, with a possible fine of £50 or £100 as well. There is no proviso making it clear they must knowingly aid, if they are simply found guilty of aiding, they must be sentenced too.
I have not served very much on juries, but I have served enough to know that very frequently the strength of the law is used even when the person is not guilty, and that the judge has to release or give a small sentence. I have found that the judges used their discretion with very great wisdom, and it would be unwise to let this Bill through as it now stands. There are other points which I will reserve for the Committee Stage. I will now deal with internment. It is a matter to which we will have to give very grave consideration. I recognise quite frankly that a very difficult situation might arise if the courts decided that a state of war was no longer technically existing. The Government have declared that it is their definite decision that they are not prepared at this stage, generally, to release prisoners though they have promised to release a large number. Personally, I hope it will be possible to release a very large number, and the more the better, if it can be done wisely and well. I do recognise that if this is the decision of the Government, then if we give them no powers we would be forcing them either to try or to release all prisoners. I know a very large proportion of the prisoners would be found guilty of taking up arms against the State if they were tried.
I would far rather see internment for a strictly limited time in the hopes of having a very large number released, if they took the position that Mr. de Valera took up in conversation with Mr. Jameson and myself, than forcing wholesale trials which would inevitably result. When I come to examine the Bill I find the greatest possible uneasiness owing to the way in which the powers of internment are given. Up to the present Ministers have had powers of internment. The responsibility has been on the Army Authorities or on the Ministers responsible. It is now proposed to give power to a responsible officer, who may be either a Superintendent of a Police Force or a Commandant of the Army, and on a report from any particular officer, the Minister may then use his powers of internment. I cannot help feeling that it is an extremely unwise thing to bring in responsible officers and that it is not safeguarded.
I consider that, generally, the policy of the Government during the time of disorder has been in one regard in a way extremely wise. While with the one hand they were suppressing rebellion and an attack on the State, with the other they were temporarily endeavouring to build up a new order. While persons were taken who were in arms against the State, a Judicial Commission was set up and District Justices were sent out into the country. An unarmed Police Force was trained, and even before the war was over they had the wisdom and the courage to send out unarmed men gradually to replace the military authorities.
Now, that has been, I have found from other people, in England and in France and elsewhere, one of the proudest and most remarkable successes of the Government. I cannot help feeling that it is a very dangerous and a very unwise thing to bring into this exceptional legislation a Superintendent of the Police Force.
I would far rather put it definitely that if the Minister interns he does it on his own responsibility, and I cannot help feeling that there will be just the danger that you will defeat the purpose intended by using, on the one hand a Commandant, and thereby bringing in units of the Army into the matter and, on the other hand, using possibly a Superintendent of the Civic Guard, and I hope very much that when the Bill goes into Committee a way will be found that if there is to be internment it will be definitely on the responsibility of the Minister concerned, and that he will not be able to say that so-and-so was interned on the advice of an officer. I cannot help thinking that that may defeat the object of the Bill. Further, I think that if you have an appeal tribunal that that appeal tribunal should be given power to release and that when it reports to the Minister he should be obliged to release the person concerned unless he holds him for the purpose of submitting other matter to the tribunal or for the purpose of trying him definitely in a court of law. I think that if that were done it might possibly do a great deal to mitigate the possible evils which might arise from internment, even for the period of six months. In conclusion, I should like to say this, that if this Bill is passed it is conferring an extremely dangerous power on the Executive, a power which, if they use it for ill, may be a danger to the Free State, though not if used wisely, and the wisest way frequently might be not to use it at all.
I can understand the Minister requiring powers of this kind but I cannot help feeling that if we are to win through, as I believe we will, if we are to gain the respect of the country and make any peace, which would mean, if not an agreed peace, in substance, unity, then I think the greatest possible care will have to be used in the exercise of these powers. The country is not just divided between the supporters of Mr. de Valera and the supporters of the Government. There is a very large portion of the population which is quite willing to stand by the Free State if the Free State is going to be Irish, if it is going to build up an Irish State, if it is going to make the people feel that they can have confidence that there will be fair play and justice, and they would be far more concerned by the actual effect of a Bill than by any niceties as to whether this is constitutional or whether it is not. I hope, therefore, that the Seanad and the Minister concerned will carefully consider whether some of the points which I have suggested should not lead to amendments in the Bill. Personally, if it is not amended I do not think I can vote for it, and Senator Moore, who is strongly opposed to it, feels the same; but there is not a single member who would like to vote against the Government on a Bill dealing with the maintenance of order.
Nothing that was said in criticism of this Bill in this House should be taken by anyone outside as in any way doubting the determination of anyone in this House to support the Government, because if a law is made it has to be obeyed. I can see no possibility of good government or of an independent Ireland in the future unless that principle is established, and nothing, I am sure, will be said, and nothing that I have said, I hope, will be taken in any way as questioning our determination to support the Government as far as that is concerned.
I propose to say only a very few words to explain my own difficulty in the matter of this Bill. No one doubts the determination of the Government and the desire of the Government to bring peace and order into the country. The only problem that we have to consider is whether the Bill as it now stands be the shortest way to that peace and order and whether it will awaken in this nation full confidence in their own law and win the people over, not only as satisfied members of the new State, but as active co-operators in perpetuating peace and order and establishing law. I will very shortly explain my own difficulty. I see the country divided into two political bodies. On one side men united in the determination to secure for Ireland absolute independence at any cost under a certain title. On the other side there are men, also united, in the determination to cut across the entanglements of words and to lay and provide solid foundations for a real self-governing nation. And in the track of both parties, as we all know, there is the madness of camp-followers to exasperate every contention. Between the contending camps lie the masses of inarticulate people scattered through the land—an undefined world of men and women, disillusioned, ill-informed, or misinformed, wearied of the present, uncertain and fearful of the future. They have suffered disasters under which enthusiasm has been changed into weariness of soul, policy deranged, laws and the spirit of legislation perverted, and even the sense of equity and justice thrown out of order. National tradition itself has been blurred and dimmed. This mass of common opinion, now tired and confused, carries in it the hope or the danger of the country. It may long lie a heavy weight encumbering the ground which no call could reach and which might well furnish a feeding ground for crime. Or it might suddenly be swayed to one side or the other and to whatever side it swung carry the immediate destiny of the country. The solidity and strength of the constitutional Irish State will depend on enlisting this body of neutral or perplexed opinion in its defence—I mean awakening its active affection and not merely accepting an apathetic acquiescence of the people. When the Government has brought all its terrors to the terrorist there will still remain the need to narrow the range of discontent and broaden the popular confidence, to bring to all the doubtful and perplexed assurance that law is the safeguard and friend of every man, that even the obnoxious and suspected will have its due protection. We have, as a matter of fact, to create a new sense of law in this land, law coming from the will of the people and serving as their guardian.
My objection to the Bill as it stands is that the pursuit of crime is allowed to obscure that other object, the securing of the consent of the people. I give a few instances. Take, for example, the vulgar title—"The Flogging Bill." Ministers hold that the lash can be defended by cold reason. If I judge by myself I believe that the Irish have had such a horror driven into their souls by the tales of '98 that on this subject they cannot, for a long time to come, use any cold reason. Law-making has two sides to it—the intention of the Government and the co-operation of the people. If either fails there is no law, but chaos. The Oireachtas has complete authority to make what laws it chooses. We are confident that none of its laws will carry in them any absolute injustice. We are equally confident that any law, however it may be reasonably defended in itself, which is contrary to the opinion and feelings of the people, will prove as little effective as if the Oireachtas had possessed no right at all. With regard to this enactment, in an inflamed and even exasperated state of the public mind the Government had no healing words. It did not even trouble to mention that this punishment has long been a part of ordinary law for the two offences named when the prisoner was tried by indictment. Their change in the law was to give the power of flogging also to courts of summary jurisdiction. In several phrases it makes this punishment and no other mandatory on the magistrate. The probability is that both changes were unnecessary and that possibly not a single person will suffer this sentence. Meanwhile a large section of public opinion, and that not the least honest and true, has been angered, and the Bill lowered in public esteem and so far gravely enfeebled. Another challenge is the proposed system of Appeal Courts or Councils for interned prisoners, which will, no doubt, have careful examination from the Seanad.
Perhaps no matter is more grave than the threatened freedom and dignity of the civil administration. We admit that in guiding the country through a transition stage from military to civil rule it is necessary for the civil Government to take over certain military powers. The method of using this power, however, is of the first importance. The wise and courageous action of the Government in establishing unarmed Civic Guards and the District Justices throughout the country has been of enormous aid in bringing order and stability. To both a new duty has suddenly been allotted in this Bill. The officers of the Civic Guard are called on to denounce men to be interned for the public good. The District Magistrates are put under special orders of the Executive Government, which inevitably degrades them in the public mind to the position of the old Resident Magistrates as mere tools of the Executive. If this position is maintained irrevocable damage may be done now, as it was done in the past to general confidence in law. Even six months of doubtful provisions to discover crime may kindle a new distrust, and a new tolerance for criminals. On the other hand, what we want to kindle is a new confidence. I only give one more illustration. Under Section 9 a prisoner brought before the court of a District Justice is put under a new form of being compelled to go into the witness-box to clear himself of a charge before a case has been made out against him; and is then liable to be prosecuted on some other charge upon evidence against himself which he has been thus forced to give. This system is entirely opposed to the common law as it now stands. It was defended on the plea of emergency legislation for abnormal cases under abnormal conditions, and that against obnoxious malefactors the old legal tradition of justice and fair dealing did not rightly apply, since it contained a flavouring of humanitarianism. I believe that when the Irish people come to understand that their Irish-made law picks out suspected criminals for detection by methods which the traditional common law rejects as unfair, that there will be just resentment and indignation; the way is opened to a propaganda formidable because it has a true basis.
We must remember that atrocious criminals are few, and that violence will die for lack of shelter, of friends and comforters; and that we have, even in a six months Bill, to safeguard the interests of the whole common people. Our one purpose is to bring law and peace to the country. The Seanad must consider this Bill, not only in itself, but as thrown out on a world disorganised and troubled in mind, to whom law is suspicious, and peace little more than a term for being let alone. By peace and law we mean so just a peace and so impartial a law that it will awaken a willing and active co-operation of all working for the common good. In every Act our aim must be clear, not merely to terrify crime, but to maintain and fortify public virtue. I implore the Seanad to stand fast by law undefiled by all passion, even of righteousness, or by temporary expediencies. In the present state of the country I believe that a generous confidence, and a manifest will to a course of law by general consent, might reach many troubled hearts and consciences, and strengthen a Free State based on the will of the whole nation.
I have no doubt that the Seanad will pass the Second Reading of this Bill. They have found the Government are very able and courageous, and they have come to us and said that these powers are necessary, but I have little doubt that the Seanad will modify the details of the measure. I am myself interested in one detail. Before Christmas I went to President Cosgrave and I consulted him about the advisability of proposing a resolution in the Seanad asking for the inspection of prisons. He gave me what seemed at the moment sound reasons against my proposing it. About two months ago, or less, a very influential body of Senators went to the President and again proposed an inspection of the prisons. President Cosgrave gave that body reasons against the inspection which I did not think were so sound, and I do not think that many of us came away convinced. I am sorry that when this question arose in the Dáil that a resolution in favour of inspection of prisons was not passed there, especially as Mr. O'Higgins when speaking in the Dáil said that the Government would have no objection to the inspection of prisons if the Government appointed the inspectors. I do not think that any one of us would dispute the methods of appointment if we had able and independent men appointed, but I am sorry that no clause has been inserted in the Bill dealing with this, and I hope the Government will agree to it in the Committee Stage. In saying this I do not wish it to be supposed that I hold that any particular set of charges that have been made against the prisons are true. I have no doubt whatever of the gross exaggeration of these charges, but I am equally certain that no body of men could be trusted with a responsible power over any other body of men, especially if these men are their political opponents, and I think that some kind of independent inspection and independent appeal ought to be allowed. There are other questions I could touch upon, but I will reserve what I have to say to the Committee Stage. I only speak on this now because I would like the Government to consider whether or not they can meet us on that point.
There seems to be a feeling that this is a very harsh ineasure, as though the punishments in it were to be inflicted without due regard to all the circumstances leading up to and connected with the person arraigned and charged under the Bill. If every man in Ireland were equally well disposed to obey the law, as I presume every Senator here is disposed, there would be no occasion for Bills of this nature. One or two policemen in every populous centre would be quite sufficient to preserve the law, to deal with any case of a man taking too much drink, or an ordinary street row that might occur. If people were all well disposed to obey the law there need be no occasion for measures of this character. The best guarantee that you can have that the law will be kept and that people will remain law-abiding is to give your Executive full powers to inflict punishment, and, if need be, for certain offences very drastic punishment in case the offenders are brought to justice. It is only against the jackals of society— the lawless elements of society, who are enemies of yours and mine, of our property, and of every vested interest, and all the interests of the country as a whole—that the clauses in this Bill are framed. The main contention against this Bill centres round the clause that refers to flogging.
If a man arms himself with a murderous weapon and breaks into the house of an ordinary law-abiding citizen at midnight, creates a panic and frightens the occupants out of their lives, in some instances, he is, at the very best, a contemptible coward, and, at the very least, a potential murderer and cold-blooded assassin, because he provides himself with a murderous lethal weapon which he is determined to and will use in certain eventualities. If by any chance the unarmed householder succeeds in disarming this man and gets hold of a good riding whip or ash plant and thrashes the fellow within an inch of his life what would every Senator here say? What would the Press say the following morning? Would there not be a chorus of approval all over the country—"Serve him jolly well right; he did not get half what he deserved?" Yet, when it is put there in cold print, we all hold our hands up in pious horror, and say: "What a dreadful thing! How brutal! How can Ireland have come to such a state as this, that its legislation should be degraded in this way!" How is it brutal? Is that man brutalised who uses his ash-plant in that way? The other fellow is, at best, a brute. In any case, his brutal instincts have not been thrashed out of him when young. I suppose he escaped the parental rod and the schoolmaster's rod also. Does the infliction of corporal punishment for offences brutalise the schoolmaster? Does it brutalise the father when he feels he must castigate his child, and sometimes castigate him very thoroughly even to drawing blood from his back? If that man, grown up into years, has escaped that proper correction, how is it to be a brutal thing that everybody associated with the administration of the law and the correction of that man and his criminal and brutal instincts, from the Judge right down, is to be brutalised?
One might as well raise a protest against the hangman and say that hanging and capital punishment should be done away with because it brutalises the hangman. As a matter of fact, it does not brutalise the hangman. We have it on record that these hangmen are most humane people; that in many instances they have the most kindly disposition. We have had frequent instances before an execution and whilst on the scaffold of the man who is to be executed, recognising that the hangman is only a cog in the administrative machine, shaking hands with him before he goes to his doom. The hangman shakes hands with the man to be executed, because he has no personal enmity or spleen against the victim. Like the Judge and the policeman and everybody right down the whole chain leading to that man's presence on the gallows he is simply one of the cogs in the administrative machine, and nobody is brutalised by the process. The very thing that in one set of circumstances would be applauded by the general community, by everybody except the fellow who gets the castigation, when it is put in cold print assumes another phase entirely, and we all recoil from it. These are preventive measures. I say the best guarantee of decent order or peace in the country is to invest your Executive with the fullest powers to deal with these jackals and criminals of society. I know of a case in the County Waterford where an old woman of 80 years of age, living in a hovel, had her place broken into at night, and some of these gentlemen, for whom we have such consideration, dragged that old woman out of her bed, and, despite her tears and pleading on her knees, robbed her of £6 odd, the savings practically of her lifetime. They then threw her on the floor. Would not anybody say that flogging was good enough for ruffians of that kind? These people are with you to-day. They used the freedom they got when the repressive forces were taken from this country. When 70,000 or 80,000 military and 15,000 to 17,000 policemen were taken away from Ireland all these lawless elements came to the surface. Until the Army and the Civic Guard got going we know what the result was. You have not changed the natures of these men. You may have a lot in jail to-day, but there are many outside, and their natures are just the same. That element is in any community. If you took the repressive forces away from the city of London to-morrow you possibly would have the whole of London looted within 48 hours.
The Civil war is now declared to be over. I attach very little importance to that declaration, so long as the arms that are dumped and hidden in this country are not yielded up freely and generously. What are they held for? They are held possibly till after the election, and there may be a recurrence of all that we have gone through before we are very much older. If you give these powers to the civil authority you will minimise the danger, and there possibly will not be a recurrence. So long as that element is there with arms dumped, and within their procurement, there is always the danger of a recurrence of the trouble we have gone through. Unless you have drastic powers of this sort vested in your civil authorities you will have the possibility, almost an incitement and an inducement to these lawless elements of society to break out afresh whenever they think the opportunity offers or the occasion arises.
It seems to me that there is considerable difference between thrashing a man in hot blood and thrashing him in cold blood. In any case, as Mrs. Green has pointed out, flogging has a bad history in Ireland. I do not think that we ought to be bringing what I call brutality into our legislation, because its value as a deterrent is not great enough to make the end justify the means, and to make the end justify us in following England, in following Belfast, and in following Hamar Greenwood in our legislation.
I think flogging is too good for savages who do such things as Senator Kenny has mentiened or who tie women to lamp-posts and leave them there. As we saw the other day in the Moore Street case, the existing law gives power to thrash people concerned in such a case. The only power this Bill gives as far as I can see is to allow the lash to be used in the case of people who threaten but who do not actually use physical violence. For the sake of that it is certainly not worth while bringing this in. I would hardly have spoken at all except that I think a Senator should not vote against this Bill, or even abstain without giving some reason. It is the most important Bill we have had yet, and I hope that it will get full consideration. It is an attempt to deal with a certain situation and if we turn it down we ought to consider what the alternative is. The alternative is to give no further power to the Government but to endorse the policy of trying or releasing the prisoners. I think there is a great deal to be said for a general amnesty and that the psychological moment is just now. That is, provided there was a generous and spontaneous action on the part of the Government. The Government, I do believe, mean to be generous, and when we hear unfortunate expressions about keeping them in until they rot from people in responsible positions I believe we should not take much notice. Remarks of that kind I think, are just due to the exasperating circumstances, and anyone in hot blood would say more than they mean. As far as I can see the Government does not mean to let them out. I should like to see them all out. If they do not do that let them let out as many as they can. The Party now known as Sinn Fein has definitely announced that they are not going to fight with guns. They have been described by one Senator as showing duplicity, and a good many other abstract adjectives with which I could not agree. That Party has never before made such an announcement that they were going to stop warfare. I do not see why we should not believe it Sooner or later you will have to believe in them, just as sooner or later you will have to let out the prisoners. You cannot keep them in until they rot and you cannot go on regarding as absolutely unreliable the people who are against you. The statement of the Sinn Fein Party may not bind the prisoners if you let them out, but it would make it much harder, almost impossible, for prisoners to carry on the war when they did come out. This Bill gives powers to intern for the future as well as continuing internment. If the prisoners were all let out I could understand taking powers to intern for the next six months, because you have everybody that is at all dangerous in. I do not think you can have it both ways. There is another argument for letting out the prisoners or as many of them as you can, and that is the election argument. You want to be sure that this election cannot be said not to be the authentic voice of the people. For that reason I would like to see many, if not all, of the prisoners let out. As regards the provisions of the Bill which deal with firearms and squatting on land, I regard them as good. They are minor points, but I can hardly vote for a Bill on minor points when I do not agree with the main point. I agree with Senator Mrs. Green when she spoke about not having the Civic Guard dragged in. They are our police and we do not want them dragged in in spite of themselves and made like the R.I.C. Anyone who lives in the country realises the importance of that. I do not know if I am going to vote against this Bill or to abstain. I was going to abstain, but Senator Mrs. Green's plea was so strong against the Bill that I think I will vote against it. If the Bill is drastically amended I might vote for it on the Third Reading.
The opposition to this Bill comes, not from any desire on the part of its opponents to impede the Government in preserving law and order in the country, but rather from an ardent wish to bring in all elements that are good and patriotic, as helping agencies to the Government in carrying out their task. We believe that the powers the Executive would arrogate to itself are not such as will command the confidence of the great silent masses of the people of the country. The whole principle of the Bill, as explained by the Minister, is to give to the Executive in an emergency situation, power to detain persons without trial and without charge. Now, we are told from various platforms that the war is over and that peace is restored. Still Ministers come along and say the emergency situation still exists and that it is necessary for them to have this power. Many of us doubt that the emergency situation exists. Like Senator Douglas and some others I am inclined to believe that it has ceased, and that if the Government boldly took their courage in their hands they would soon see their way to release hundreds who are now interned, and relieve at the same time the great hardships that are imposed upon the relatives of these internees, and the country from the heavy burden of supporting them. In whom is the power of arrest vested? In an Officer of the Army who has, perhaps only three, four or five months training. He is to be the arbiter of the fate of, perhaps, some innocent person. His report will be taken by the Minister and probably acted upon, because the Bill states he has only to give his opinion on the matter without specifying his reasons. If the opinion is such that he is a danger to the State while left at liberty, then that man is arrested and cast into prison, where he remains, perhaps, for an indefinite period.
Now I do not think that it is right for the Government to vest such powers in young officers. While having every confidence that the officers of the army are capable I think it is too much power to vest in them. The same holds in regard to the Civic Guard Our Superintendent of the Civic Guard has power to imprison, so far as my reading of the Bill goes. I think that is a very dangerous situation to drag the Civic Guard into. The accused has no means of ascertaining what the charge against him may be. A Civic Guard, in his farseeing political prejudice, perhaps, against some individual, is vested with power over that man's freedom and perhaps over his life, because the dangers of internment are so great that one need not wait for the gallows or the gun in some cases to end his career. It is true that Courts of Appeal are set up but then no provision is made to enable the person who appeals to obtain any legal assistance, and we all know how much need there is for this assistance on the part of country lads in prison. Even if the appeal should prove successful and the finding of the Court of Appeal is that he should be released, the Executive Minister still retains the power to set aside that finding and retain this person in prison. It goes much further than enabling the Executive to keep the accused in custody. It prescribes very heavy penalties on persons found guilty of certain crimes. Those are dealt with by the ordinary law and the purpose of dealing with them in this Bill is to compel courts to inflict heavy and savage penalties and to curtail the exercise of the discretion of the courts which is regarded as a constitutional right in every country. It curtails their discretion and it does not give them a chance of fitting the penalty to the crime. There is a good deal of "shall" throughout the Bill. If little more discretionary powers were permitted to these legal authorities the Bill I think would not meet with such violent opposition, which is justly merited in my opinion. The introduction of flogging has done a great deal to make the Bill stink in the nostrils of our country people. They will not go into the details as to the justification for flogging, if there could be such justification, and I maintain that nothing could justify this degrading and brutal form of punishment. People will associate this measure in their minds for all time as the horrible Flogging Bill produced by the first Irish Parliament. That, I think, is not good for the making of happy conditions in the State and not good for the Executive introducing it. The Schedule of the Bill includes such offences as illicit distilling, the selling of poteen, and so forth. We hear a good deal about children staggering homeward from school and other places, but the district has not been specified.
It was not in Kildare.
No; I do not think that Kildare lends itself to such distilling. Many other charges of this kind have been made but no statistics of prosecutions have been produced. When those charges are made the locality should be specified and particulars given to enable the public to judge. Those civil appeals which we think could be dealt with pretty well by the ordinary courts are being introduced into this Bill and violent measures are taken to punish those who are guilty. I think this Bill is only intelligible on the assumption that all those crimes show a tendency to increase while we are told every day that crime—and I think we can bear evidence of it—has practically ceased. Only on the assumption that this crime is increasing could this Bill be justified at all. In regard to the detection of crime and the position of the Civic Guard and others responsible for the detection of crime, I believe that the provisions of this Bill will not help in that direction, because the very idea that such savage penalties are awaiting those detected, will deter people from giving information that might lead to the detection of criminals. Another thing about the Bill, which I think is open to grave criticism, is the transfer of the scene of trial from the District or Ordinary Court in which it is usually held to some remote part of the country. We all know that this was a British device. If the Attorney-General says that he wants a venue changed, changed it must be. In my opinion the objections to the change are stronger now than under the British conditions. That Section is in complete conflict with the recognised constitutional principle, that no person should be withdrawn from trial by the Judge or Court which would normally try him. The Bill is supposed to be a transitional measure, but the military retain all the powers previously conferred on them. None of these powers is withdrawn. If the civil authorities want to vest powers in themselves. I think it is only right that whatever powers they abrogate to themselves should be withdrawn from the military. Many provisions of the Bill would appear to me to be more drastic than some of the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Act which were put in force when England was in dire stress. I trust that the Government will show a willingness, in the interests of peace and good-will, to accept readily any amendment that may be put forward here.
I have listened with great interest to the various reasons adduced why this Bill should not be accepted. I came here with a very open mind and I must admit that I am convinced that a Bill of such a nature is absolutely necessary under present conditions. Apparently one of the reasons introduced was that the Courts could use the powers given to them for their own ends in the coming election. I have sufficient confidence in the Government to believe that men of their courage their determination of their desire to advance the goodwill of our common country would, as they did before, stand the risk of death rather than undertake such a course. While saying that I must admit that there are one or two points in the Bill which I would be glad to see amended, and which if an amendment is suggested I will vote for. One point is that authority is given to a comparatively subordinate officer to intern for seven days any subject in the Free State. I think that is a dangerous power to give what is called a responsible officer. After all he is only a Commandant; he has no great experience of affairs. It might come to his ears that any ordinary civilian was against the views he held, and that poor unfortunate person might be interned for seven days. I would be glad that that should be amended.
Then there is the other question of flogging. Flogging is a terrible thing against all our desires and instincts. But who is to be flogged? The man who robs under arms and the man who commits arson. Are those men worthy of the consideration of an honest citizen or do they deserve the most drastic measures? They are worthy of the strongest condemnation and punishment. While admitting this I think it would be well for the Minister to leave it to the option of the Judge to inflict that punishment if he so desires and to change the word "shall" in Section 5 to make it "may."
I take exactly the same view as Senator Bennett. I think the particular Clause giving powers to military and police is open to some objection. As to the two classes of criminals I quite agree with Senator Bennett.
I desire to say I am an unqualified supporter of the Bill. I am what may be termed a whole hogger with every clause of it, because I think the conditions of the country demand it, and I cannot understand the opponents of the Bill. To my mind they seem to have detached themselves from the realities of the situation, and they seem to have allowed themselves to soar into the clouds of humanitarianism, and in that rarified atmosphere of finely spun theories to look on the criminal in the light of an erring brother whom it would be a mistake to punish severely and who ought to be coaxed from his evil ways by gentle methods. I would have thought the experience of the last twelve months should have made Senators realise that this was a delusion. I would have thought it would have made them realise the situation in Ireland still demanded firm handling, and that the user of the petrol can, the wrecker of the train, and the man who robbed with violence would understand that he would be punished ruthlessly and remorselessly, and the more ruthless and remorseless the punishment the more safe the country would become. Senator Farren wanted the people of this country to be allowed to live their lives free from any interference. That is exactly what the Bill proposed to do. It proposed to protect the people from the gentlemen who went out not only to put down the Government of the Saorstát but to put down the country itself, and to make the country rival Mexico as a by-word amongst the nations. I do not think any powers you would give the Government would be too drastic to deal with the situation. I do not think it inspires public confidence to hear Senators applying such opprobrious names to this Bill, calling it a Coercion Bill and a blot on the Constitution. I do not think it serves any useful purpose in pointing out that the detention of prisoners without trial is a crime against the Constitution. We must not forget what has taken place within the last twelve months, the desperate situation against which the Government was up, and the low ebb of moral courage in the country. We know it was impossible to prove charges against the prisoners, and the Government had no alternative but to arrest them on suspicion, and considering the number of prisoners arrested I venture to say very few innocent men suffered I know that in Donegal 1,000 were arrested. Seven hundred were outsiders who came over the border from Cork or Kerry. Three hundred were Donegal men and not two of them were innocent. They were all engaged in a conspiracy to overcome the Free State and reduce the country to ashes. I think therefore when we consider all those things and the use the Government made of the powers they asked for last year, I consider they saved the whole life of the country. Therefore I think when they come before us to ask for further powers we should have no hesitation in giving them those powers and should not stultify ourselves by merely giving lip service to the cause of law and order and refuse to give the powers to the Government to deal effectively with those against them.
I am going to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, and I do it purely on the Section that deals with flogging. Some people say that we ought to be ashamed to call it a Flogging Bill, but I know that seven-eighths of the people of the country know it by nothing else. Some people come here with prepared speeches answering other speeches that have never been made here. There has been an assumption made by the two previous speakers that someone here was defending the robbers and criminals of the country. I do not think there was a man here who defended them. I come from the very poor people of this country, and I suppose very few others in this Seanad come from them. My teaching until I was 17 or 18 years of age about the history of this country was the story of the floggings for 100 years before, of the poor people who were looked upon as the national element of this country. Long before we had even a knowledge of reading, or had the time to read the history of our country from books we had got it in stories in our own families, and we got stories, not only of people who were flogged, but of unfortunate clergymen of two denominations whose only crime was that they remained to to console the unfortunate people during the persecutions, and they were flogged, and no matter how the Seanad may look on the matter, the great majority of the people will look on this Flogging Bill as a revival of the persecutions that were perpetrated by the English over 100 years ago. I do not believe that the Government mean it in that way, but I do believe that the Government were somewhat panicky at the time they started to frame this particular Bill. Mr. Hogan, the Minister for Agriculture, said on the 15th of June, in defending this Bill, that he hoped the result of the measure would be such that in six months there would be no necessity for putting it into practice. Two months of that have now gone and there has been an improvement since then. I think I am justified in saying that when this was originally framed there was a feeling of panic in the Government. Guns were going all over the country probably. I do not think that the Government intends to revive the position which existed here over 100 years ago. Nevertheless, we must be prepared as we say that we believe, in representing the majority of the people, the Government believes, the Dáil believes and the Seanad believes, and I say that the majority of the people will believe and will accept this as a revival of the persecution that obtained in this country over 100 years ago. We ought not to do anything that will get the great body of the people up against the present Government. I take a quotation from Mr. O'Higgins' speech on the Second Reading of the Bill in the Dáil. He said: "And men have got out of the way of work, and have lost the spirit of work, and will attempt henceforth to secure the fruits of labour without labour unless they are checked." These are the people who are to be flogged. In this country and in England and in every other country for a century back any amount of men have got out of the way of work, and the only punishment that they got for it was to be called gentlemen. That is the position that we are in. Do not forget that in this country Governments and everything else change very quickly. There might be a change of Government and a Government might come into existence that might interpret this to mean that people who have got out of the way of work ought to be flogged. Do not forget that there are people in this country who thought that even before this Government was formed, that there were some people that ought to be flogged for not giving any useful service. Later in the same speech Mr. O'Higgins said, "But contradictions are the stock-in-trade of the people." They say, in effect, "we must win liberty through tyranny; we must build on destruction; we must ennoble and redeem by degradation!" That is a satirical quotation, I suppose. He disagrees with the Irregulars in believing that, and I agree with him, you cannot ennoble and redeem by degrading, and if you flog a man you degrade that man, and not alone do you degrade him but degrade the man who flogs him. Is there any man in this Seanad who would be willing to go out into the garden and administer twenty-five lashes on the bare back of a man? Mr. Kenny might like to do it. He said that almost all the fathers and the schoolmasters drew blood from the backs of their children, and from that he wants us to infer that a boy cannot grow up good unless blood is taken from his back while he is young. How many men here have had blood taken from their backs by their fathers? If there is one I guarantee he has the worst mentality. It is not fair to say that by beating a man you are going to ennoble and redeem him. You certainly will not redeem him by flogging. You will make men worse characters than they were, and for that reason I oppose every stage of this Bill. I will vote against the Second Reading, and I will vote against every stage until it comes to the end. I think it is not fair to rush this matter through. We had a Standing Order passed here a couple of weeks ago which entitled us to have these Bills in our hands at least three days before we would be asked to come here and discuss them. While we had notice of another Bill to be debated to-day this is dished up to us, although we only got the Bill yesterday.
I think there must be some mistake about that. I think Senator McPartlin, you must have been unfortunate, because I think most of the members of the Seanad got this Bill on Tuesday.
I got the Bill yesterday. I do not know when the other members got it, but I think the Standing Orders were suspended to-day, because the Bill was not sufficiently long in the hands of the members.
That had nothing to do with yesterday or to-day. Even if the members got it three days ago the Standing Orders would still have to be suspended, because the Standing Orders provide for three clear days, and that does not include the day we receive it nor the day it is sent out.
It is clear that no member had it sufficiently long in his hands to enable him to consider it in accordance with the Standing Orders. My time was a little shorter, but I am satisfied that I got an opportunity of opposing this portion of this Bill, which I feel is most objectionable. I am not concerned with the words "shall" or "may." I do not think that that particular section dealing with flogging ought to have been introduced at all, because no matter what way it is passed here, the general acceptance throughout the country will be that it is a revival of the persecutions that have brought about the minds and the men who ran England out of this country, and put this particular Government in power.
I must thank the Senators for the spirit in which the Bill has been received and discussed. I regret as much an any member of the Seanad that they have been forced to give over-hasty consideration to such an important measure. The President did, I think, indicate to members of the Dáil the considerations that made the Election a matter of urgency. I do not think that he would be unwilling to communicate these considerations to any Senator, or group of Senators, who wish to have information on the matter. The advisability of an early Election has involved a pressure of business which normally would be undesirable, and which, even in the existing circumstances, is regrettable. With regard to this Bill, I ask Senators to consider for a moment two aspects of it; firstly, the situation in which it becomes necessary to ask for powers of this kind; and secondly, the kind of body by which these powers will be exercised. Both of those two aspects are important. The situation with which the Executive Council finds itself confronted is fluid in the extreme. It has not crystalised into anything definite. It is, if you wish, neither peace nor war, but some kind of hybrid condition between the two, which might, ultimately, become one or the other. It contains the elements and posibilities of peace. No one will deny that it contains, also, a possibility of resumption of war, and all of that which certain people have euphemistically called war. I have always rather demurred to the use of the word "war" to describe the state of affairs that we have had for the last ten or twelve months. War is a clean thing and a decent thing compared with what we have had here for twelve months. It has not been war, it has been organised crime and sabotage on the grand scale, anarchy with arms, anything but war as war was ordinarily understood. There is criminality latent in men everywhere, I take it. I never preached, and I never believed in the doctrine of a double dose of original sin for the inhabitants of this island, but there is criminality latent in men everywhere. The savage is more or less dormant in most men, and there was a situation here eighteen months ago, a highly explosive situation, and it was simply a question of who was going to be the fool, and who would be the criminal, who would ram his torch into the barrel of gunpowder. The torch was rammed in and we have had here a year of anarchy, a year of hell, in which the worst passions and the basest instincts of the people had free play. They were called up, deliberately called up, and they have had free play, and we have to deal with the consequences of that. It is not now a question of placing the responsibility, it is a question of dealing with the consequences, and there is nothing to be gained by sticking our heads into the sand, and pretending we have just the same people to deal with now as we had eighteen months ago. We have not, and we have not the same people to deal with now as we had in 1919 and 1920. We have people who have been through a year of hell, a year of anarchy, crude, naked and unashamed, in which men robbed with the strong hand that which they could lay hold of.
It is not a long cry back to the day when if a robbery took place in a parish the parish stood shamed and blamed the last band of tinkers. We know, most of us, very regretfully, that robbery has become routine, robbery with violence; that arson has become routine, that the man with the message, the idealist, resorts, now, almost as a matter of course, to the torch and the petrol can. These are things that have to be faced by any government, and I, as the Minister of the Executive Council, primarily responsible for law, and the observance of law, for order and for the decencies of life in this country, had to go in the first instance before the Executive Council, in the second instance before the Dáil, and in the third instance before the Seanad to say we have a serious situation to face, a situation where you have the criminal instinct more wide-spread than ever it was before and the hidden arms and explosives stored from one end of Ireland to the other, and if you do not take strong steps as a deterrent the criminal instinct will find the gun and will go out to live by it, and the criminal instinct will find the high explosive and use it. I have no apologies to make for this Bill, or for any clause or section of it. I have great sympathy with the fine susceptibilities of the Senators and Teachtai who deplore the flogging clause. Humanitarianism has an appeal to most people but we must not let humanitarianism become over-localised. We must extend it to the people of the country, we must have, like our Great Exemplar, compassion on the multitude. Most Senators live here at the heart of Government, in the capital of the country, where the headquarters of the military and police establishments of the State are situated, and through the last six or eight months Senators, Teachtai, Ministers, and other important people, have been guarded, and their houses have been guarded. The plain people of this country have had no guards, and will have no guard unless the law and the sanctions of the law are adequate for their protection. That is what we must get down to. The sanctions of the law must be made adequate for the protection of the people. They have a right to be protected, they have a right not to be robbed by arms, they have a right not to have their house and property burned, and they have a right to demand from the Executive Council, from the Government—and do not let us get confused with technical terms, for Government is just a Committee of the people—and they have a right to demand from the Committee of the people that they take steps to insure that they be not robbed, or their houses burned. I think, considering this matter in all its bearings, I feel I cannot give to the people, or the representatives of the people, any assurance that mere imprisonment is going to be adequate to deter people from robbing or burning in the future, having due regard to what this country has passed through.
For a considerable time I considered the question of the capital punishment for robbery with arms. I believe the man who robs with arms, intends to kill if necessary, that the partition which divides robbery under arms from murder is of the slightest, of the thinnest, and that it depends very largely on such accidental circumstances as the courage, or lack of courage, of the person whom it is sought to rob. Every robber with arms is a potential murderer. but I did not come to the conclusion that the popular conscience, the popular mind, would endorse capital punishment, save in cases where life had actually been taken. But this penalty of flogging for these two offences of arson and robbery under arms is not excessive in all the circumstances. Those two crimes must stop if this country is to live and flourish, and we are justified in taking all the steps that we believe to be necessary to stop them. Have pity rather on the plain, decent people throughout the country than on the neurotic or the criminal who has got out of the way of work, got out of that healthy mentality which work brings, and who is determined to live for the future if he can on the fruits of his neighbour's work, his neighbour's thrift, or his neighbour's enterprise.
I ask for sympathy and for consideration and protection, not for the criminal, but for the decent law-abiding people of the country who look to us for protection. Senators, I think, have not read Section 5 carefully. The provision is that every male person who shall be found guilty on indictment of the offence of robbery under arms, as defined, or the offence of arson as defined, shall (unless the Court is satisfied that there are special circumstances in the case which constitute a mitigation of the offence, or is of opinion that, owing to the state of health or advanced age of the person, that it would be injurious) have inflicted on him the penalty of flogging. I do not know, I cannot say at first blush, what the mitigating circumstances of arson are, or might be, or what the mitigating circumstances of robbery under arms are, or might be. That would be for the Court. One could imagine a man going home and finding his house in flames, and hearing that it was his neighbour down the road who had done the act, in a fit of madness doing likewise to his neighbour. That, no doubt, would be considered by a Court as an extenuating or mitigating circumstance. We need not go into that. There is that discretion left to the Court, at any rate, of considering mitigating circumstances. There is further this point: that while we may say here that normally the penalty for these two offences ought to be as is set down in this Bill, having regard to all the conditions in the country, that does not deprive the Judge, having passed sentence, from making his representations to the Executive, and it does not deprive the Executive of the prerogative of mercy. I would ask that some consideration be given to that by Senators before finally coming to a decision with regard to this Bill, or that particular section of the Bill.
The internment sections have been criticised and there has been one line of criticism which says "You have not deprived the military of their power, and yet you have proceeded to confer power on the civil authorities." The whole situation is difficult, is anomalous, is eminently fluid. The Courts have not felt themselves as yet justified in refusing to accept the affidavit of the Adjutant-General that a state of war or armed rebellion exists in the country. The arms have been refused to those who alone have the right to control the lethal weapons of the country. They have been secreted. Every place in Ireland is not as peaceful or as calm, or as normal as Kildare, from which Senator Cummins comes. I have reports from West Cork, for instance—possibly there may be Senators with some knowledge of the situation there—showing a very different state of affairs. Any Senator who is aware of the conditions existing, say, in an area around Ballinasloe, is aware that they could not be described as either normal or peaceful. A state of war or armed rebellion is held to exist still, and may exist either locally or generally in future. You may have a patchwork situation. You may have one area subnormal, and in another area a state of disorder and armed revolt prevailing, and you cannot take from the common law powers of the military in meeting a military situation. It would be a most dangerous thing to attempt to do so. The difficulty we have had in this Bill was, that while providing certain powers and provisions for the civil authorities, and, while hoping that the situation will progressively improve, we have had to preserve the common law powers of the military, and we have had to be careful that by nothing that we would set down in this Bill would we derogate or seem to derogate from them. That is why this anomaly which Senators have commented upon, and which has struck strangely on their minds, exists in the Bill—the necessity for preserving the common law powers of the military to meet any and every situation which might develop—and Senators know that you have at least the elements of a grave situation in the country still.
It has been asked, whatever might be said for detaining prisoners who are now interned, why should we take powers to intern other people for six months. The frank reply to that is this: the greater the powers the Executive gets, the greater will be the possibility of considering the question of release on a large scale. If broad powers for dealing with any situation that might arise in the country are denied to the Executive, the Executive will be forced to take a very conservative attitude on this question of releasing prisoners. Men have gone out and challenged democracy in this country, challenged the foundations on which all modern civilised States rest. They have challenged them by methods that are not generally resorted to; by hacking the face of the country; by trying to cut the arteries of the nation; by terrorism of a crude kind; the burning of peoples' homes, the wrecking of railways. Those men—presumably, and for any knowledge we have, quite unrepentant—are now in the custody of the Government, 12,000 or 13,000 of them. God knows where they came from. The question now arises how to deal with them. Let it be remembered too, that to hold any of these men the day after the Courts decide that in their view there is no state of war or armed revolt the Executive must get power to hold all of them. It must then proceed to use its judgment, to use its discrimination and to use the common sense, which an Executive that retains the confidence of the majority of the people's representatives may be presumed to possess, in dealing with the problem. But to hold any of these prisoners for a single day after the Courts decide that the state of war or armed revolt is at an end, the Executive must get power to hold all. That is one point. The other point is that the broader the powers we get in dealing with any situation that might arise in the future, the more generous and the more liberal can our attitude be on the question of release. The phrase was used several times "detaining on suspicion." I want to analyse that expression of suspicion. Everything short of legal proof is, of course, suspicion. For legal proof you require evidence, and for evidence in a situation such as has existed, and still exists, in this country, you require a very high degree of both moral and physical courage. Consequently, a great many people are detained on suspicion. Senators know it is not a case of suspicion. If we, for instance, arrest in a couple of days' time, a gentleman named Keogh, who has been rampaging round the West of Ireland, he will be detained on suspicion. Mr. Humphrey Murphy, who has been endearing himself to the citizens of Kerry, will, no doubt, be arrested and detained on suspicion also. Mr. Eamon de Valera if arrested and detained, would be detained on suspicion, like Mr. Austin Stack and others.
Would you arrest him?
I will tell you afterwards. When Senators and also Deputies in the Dáil harped on the word "suspicion," they knew they were only harping on a technicality. They know in point of fact that it is not suspicion in the case of any people at present detained, and that it would not be suspicion in the case of any people arrested in the future. It would not be mere suspicion, it would be only suspicion in the sense of falling short of legal proof, of falling short of evidence, and we know why the evidence would not be forthcoming. I have said in the Dáil, and I want to say it here, that this Bill could be used as a medium of tyranny. It could be used as a vehicle of oppression. I am not going to quarrel with words. Senators have called it a Coercion Bill. It could be a Coercion Bill. But in whose hands is to be the exercise of it? An Executive responsible to the people through their representatives, which cannot remain a day in office after it loses the confidence of the majority of the people's representatives. We have gone, at the very time when the foundations of the State were challenged, and passed a measure giving the franchise to every man and woman in Ireland of 21 years of age and upwards. Within a few short weeks there will be an election at which the adult population of Ireland will vote. After that the provisions of this Bill will be in the hands of an Executive responsible to a Parliament so elected. I do not know why Senator Colonel Moore used the word Bastille. It points either to a decided tendency to exaggeration on the part of the Senator or decided ignorance of French history. There is no analogy between detention, with the approval of Parliament, under the provisions of a Bill passed by both Houses of Parliament, for a maximum period of six months on charges so defined as the charges set out in the Schedule of this Bill, and letters de cachet, and no analogy between that and the Bastille. Mention has been made of the Responsible Officer, and there was a suggestion that the power given to the responsible officer was too great to give to an Army Officer. One Senator went on to say that it was too great also to give to the Civic Guard. In Section 2, Sub-Section 1, you have the provision which states:—“It shall be lawful for a responsible officer to arrest and to detain in custody for any period not exceeding one week, any person found committing or attempting to commit, or whom such officer suspects of having committed, any of the offences mentioned in Part II of the Schedule to this Act.” Senators can read the offences mentioned in Part II of the Schedule. I ask, is it right that persons found committing or suspected of having committed an offence under Part II. of the Schedule should be arrested? If it is right, who should arrest them? If it is too great a power to give to an Army Officer, and too great a power to give to the Civic Guard, who should arrest them? Is it the President?
Under the authority of the magistrate they could be arrested.
Every Government must avail itself of the ordinary executive arms of the Government. The whole underlying principle of this Bill is that for a period of six months power is asked to arrest and detain people without trial. The emergency situation which exists demands it. The low ebb at which civic spirit in the country stands demands it. You will not get evidence against men who are menacing the whole fabric of Society, and of peace and security here. If peace, security and stability are not restored here, and restored quickly, and if a normal commercial atmosphere is not restored quickly, we cannot answer for the future of this country, and we cannot say with any confidence that this country will go forward in peace or reconstruction. The last people from whom opposition or resistance to this Bill should come ought to be the representatives of labour. The conditions of anarchy, the conditions of unrest the unsettled conditions which prevail, and have prevailed, hit no section or element of the community harder than they hit the poor and weak, and the man who is dependent for a livelihood on the work of his hands. If we are to solve our unemployment question, and if we are to drain up the unemployed into various works, then you must have an atmosphere here in which people can invest their capital with reasonable prospects of a return. If the Executive is weak, if you deprive it of the powers which it feels it ought to have, to deal, not merely with the situation which exists, but any situation which may arise, then you will not have a normal atmosphere of credit or security here; you will not solve your unemployment or other pressing social problems. The Bill was not conceived in any spirit of vindictiveness towards political opponents. It was not conceived in any spirit of vindictiveness, but was conceived with a very full realisation of the grave condition in which this country finds itself, as a result of the last twelve months; and a very grave appreciation of the fact that if anarchy is to be suppressed the Dáil and the Seanad must not be niggardly in the matter of investing the Executive with very full powers to deal with them. There is no use in Senators talking or suggesting that this Bill was conceived for the purpose of the election, to keep awkward people out of the way, or as a way of locking up potential votes against the Government. That is not true, and the Senator who suggested it knows it is not true. The Bill was conceived, not in a spirit of vindictiveness, but in a spirit of pity for the plain, decent people of this country, and pity for this thing that is trying to be the Irish nation.
- John Bagwell.
- William Barrington.
- Thomas Westropp Bennett.
- Mrs. Eileen Costello.
- John C. Counihan.
- The Countess of Desart.
- Sir Nugent Talbot Everard.
- James Perry Goodbody.
- Mrs. Stopford Green.
- Henry Seymour Guinness.
- Benjamin Haughton.
- Cornelius Joseph Irwin.
- Sir John Keane.
- Patrick Williams Kenny.
- Earl of Kerry.
- Thomas Linehan.
- Joseph Clayton Love.
- Edward MacEvoy.
- James MacKean.
- John MacLoughlin.
- Earl of Mayo.
- William John Molloy.
- James Moran.
- Bernard O'Rourke.
- Colonel Sir Hutcheson Poë.
- Mrs. Wyse Power.
- William Butler Yeats.
- William Cummins.
- Michael Duffy.
- Thomas Farren.
- Edward MacLysaght.
- Thomas MacPartlin.
- Colonel Maurice Moore.
I move the adjournment until to-morrow at 3 o'clock.
May I ask are you taking the Land Bill first to-morrow?
No. There will be one or two purely informal matters first,: but the Second Stage of the Land Bill will be reached not later than a quarter to four, and probably before that.
The Seanad adjourned at 6.30 until Friday, 27th July, at 3 o'clock p.m.