SEANAD RESUMES. - PUBLIC SAFETY BILL—FIFTH STAGE.

Question proposed: "That this Bill do now pass."

I beg to record my final protest against the passage of this Bill. I hope it will be the last time that this legislature will be turned into the farce that I have seen here to-day, of a Bill of this kind being chased through at a speed which does not allow one to record the sections as they are being passed. The Bill is of a new and of a terrible character, and it has been rushed through by very discreditable means which could have been avoided if there was a genuine desire to facilitate proper discussion of the Bill itself. It is a very dangerous thing to assume the role of prophet, but I venture to prophesy that the Minister will live to rue the day that he put this dastardly enactment on the Statute Book. I think the same prophecy will apply to those who aided and abetted him in doing that.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Knowingly.

The leader of the combined Cumann na Gaedhael and Farmers' Party frankly admitted that while he disapproved of certain sections of the Bill, he was still going to vote for it, because it would be a vote of want of confidence in the Government if he voted against it. We were told that we had representative Government and that we have always the Executive to catechise and chastise if they do not do things in accordance with the wishes of the people and of this assembly. We have the leader of this powerful Party in the Seanad admitting that he disapproved, and I assume he speaks for his party.

Would the Senator be more specific, and say whom he refers to as the leader of the combined party?

I wish to change it by saying the leader of the non-party party in the Seanad.

I take it that the Senator refers to me personally by his remarks.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I think he intends to pay you a compliment.

I only refer to the admission that was made as an indication of the unreality of the whole position in pretending that it is in accordance with the wishes of the Seanad itself. The amendment I proposed to-day was at least a very reasonable, mild and modest suggestion a postponement of the objectionable section referred to, so as to give time to the new assembly to consider it. It was turned down almost with truculence which certainly was not a display of statesmanship, or of power or even ordinary consideration. It was simply turned down by a dead-weight vote, and given no consideration. A Bill of this character passed under these circumstances not only tends to bring discredit on its movers, but to bring discredit on the nation. I desire finally to mark my very emphatic protest, not only against the terms of the Bill, but because of the methods adopted to rush it through the Seanad.

I take the same view as Senator O'Farrell. Before the luncheon interval we were endeavouring to express our views upon the Bill, as we were entitled to do, but 8 or 9 Senators who, when financial matters affecting themselves were under consideration, debated them for 8 or 9 hours last evening deprived us of the opportunity. I attempted to speak to this Bill, as I believed I was entitled to, and Senators shouted continually: "Vote, Vote." By a dead-weight vote they prevented us from expressing our opinion. We have attempted to express our opinion on this Bill, believing in our hearts and souls that we were doing the best thing in the interests of the country. We have no interests to serve here other than those of the people. We are entitled to give fair expression to our opinion, as we have been elected here to do these things. We are endeavouring to do them to the best of our ability, believing that we are doing what is best in the interest of the country.

Senator O'Farrell described Senator Sir John Keane's denunciation of the criminal as the greatest piece of unadulterated piffle he had ever heard. I think that the greatest piece of unadulterated piffle, and I would go further and say unadulterated hogwash I have ever heard, has come from the Labour benches, from those who profess to be out for the ordinary peaceful citizen. The ordinary peaceful citizen does not care two jots what penalties you impose under this Bill.

Take a Referendum on it.

All he wants is security to lie down at night and to make sure that he will not be pulled out of his bed and his house burned to the ground. I am afraid that he will think the efforts of the Labour Party to reduce the penalties and to save the back of the man who commits arson, from the lash, are simply to convert a Public Safety Bill into a Criminal Safety Bill.

I do not intend to follow some of the later speakers in trying to invent further unparliamentary language. I rise for the purpose of suggesting that some of the recent speeches have been somewhat extreme in character, and, if left as they have been just delivered, would give the impression that the Seanad had not given reasonable and proper consideration to this Bill. I am one who is still of the opinion that it is not a good Bill. I have not been able to support it, and I cannot yet support it. At the same time, I have nothing but respect for Senators and others who feel that it would be more serious to defeat and turn out the Government at this stage than it would be to defeat the Bill. I take a different attitude myself, but I consider that is a position that it is not unreasonable to take, and that it is a perfectly fair position to take up.

To that extent I disagree strongly with Senator O'Farrell. I also disagree with him in his suggestion that we have not improved the Bill, or that it has not been properly considered here. To some extent I agree. It has been most unfortunate that this Stage has been rushed as it was, but I do suggest that to a very large extent the rushing of this Bill is the inevitable result of the circumstances we have gone through in the country. I frankly admit, and I am of opinion, that some Bill was necessary. Although I cannot support this Bill I do recognise the position that Senators have taken up. I should like to point out and thank the Seanad from my point of view, and also the Minister for the fact that there have been a number of improvements made in the Bill which are by no means negligible. The Civic Guard and the military officers are now removed from immediate responsibility in the matter, and it is placed on the Minister. If the Bill is passed as it has been amended I consider it has been considerably improved. The position of the Appeal Council has been made clear, and the Minister will release a person recommended after he has given the matter proper consideration. That is a considerable improvement. The position of Judges with regard to using discretion has been made clear in our amendments which I also suggest is an improvement.

Does the Minister agree to that—that he will let out any prisoner on the recommendation of the Advisory Council?

What the Minister says is not exactly the point. I am referring to what I believe is in the Bill as we passed it. I am not referring to any promises but to the amendments inserted. I think if Senator Moore will read the amendments accepted by the Minister he will find that is made quite clear. An amendment has also been inserted providing for the inspection of places of detention which I believe is a very important amendment, and one which the public will be very glad to see in the Bill. I say these things because some of the remarks made here would give the impression that the Government had turned everything down, or that we had not considered the Bill properly. I am still of the opinion, at the same time, that it is not a good Bill, that flogging is a mistake, and I am sorry I cannot support it. I make this speech now because I think there has been too much suggestion that the motives of either those who opposed it or supported it were either to penalise their political opponents or because they did not care about the suppression of crime. Both suggestions are unworthy and untrue. I think that the opposition as well as the support given to the Bill has been given because we recognised the abnormal circumstances of the country, and because of the bona fide attempt to suppress disorder. I hope that that will be the general opinion of the Seanad, and that it will not go out from here that we really do hold these opinions about each other.

No one cares for this Bill. I do not imagine that even the Government that introduced it are very enamoured of it. As far as this Assembly is concerned the Bill is laid before us by the responsible Government of the country and they tell us that in the interests of the country it ought to be passed. Whether the Bill will realize the expectations no one can say but it comes before us on the Government authority and inasmuch as this is the first Irish Government that we have had and inasmuch as this Government is trying to function under exceptionally difficult circumstances, the Seanad naturally does what it can to investigate the measure seriously and at the same time not in too critical a spirit. Feeling their responsibility as they do the Senators endeavour to assist the Government in the maintenance of order and peace within the realm.

It is true that a measure of this importance might be considered for a longer time and I sympathise very much with the feeling of Senators who considered that we had not time enough to debate it. In fact under ordinary circumstances, a Bill of this kind would have taken weeks to pass. But then we have to face the facts as we find them. We have not been living in ordinary times.

I know at the moment that things are somewhat better in this country, but the man in the street feels that the hands of the Government needs to be strengthened for dealing with exceptional disorder. It is not a question of the Government victimising its political opponents. I imagine the Government's primary object is to maintain the liberty of the subject. We might have made further changes in this Bill if we had longer time to discuss it. On the whole I agree with Senator Douglas that certain important improvements have been inserted in it, and I do feel that the Senators who have taken a strong line on this subject will realise that under very difficult circumstances the Seanad has endeavoured to do its best.

I am glad to hear that that concession has been made by the Minister with regard to the release of prisoners on the recommendations of the Appeal Council. I regard that as an improvement in the Bill, and I am glad that it has been done. When I asked the question now I was not aware of it. On the other hand, I think very serious damage has been done to the Bill by the taking out of those words "for stated reasons." I think it would be an improvement to the Bill to have them retained, and it is wrong that they should at the last moment be taken out even after the Bill had been debated and passed by the Dáil, and by the Dáil in Committee. These words in the Bill would have prevented suspicious and antagonistic feelings towards the Bill. However, that has been done. One more or less balances the other. I am opposed to the Bill for the reasons I have already stated. I am sorry the Bill has been passed at all. I am still more sorry it has been passed in such a hurry.

I wish to add my protest to what has been already said against the Bill. I do not admit that there has been any important improvement made in the Bill. It is leaving this Seanad quite as bad as it came in.

Worse, in some respects. When this Bill was being carried through the Dáil at no time did more than one-third of the representatives of the people vote on the majority side. I think that the amendment that was put forward to-day left the Government a reasonable opportunity of testing the feelings of the real representatives of the people when they come in after the elections—testing whether the people are in favour of the Bill or not. That opportunity has been denied, and this Bill is leaving the Seanad only voted on by one-third of the representatives of the people of this country. I think that is a matter that is very regrettable.

Senator Douglas has, it seems to me, the faculty of agreeing with everybody and disagreeing with everybody at the same time. But I cannot follow him at all. He spoke about improvements in the Bill. I would be glad if he could have pointed out any of the improvements. You, sir, yourself, protested against the rushing of these Bills, and this has been rushed all through. The business all through is not getting the consideration which important business deserves. We were told, as the Bill was being again rushed to-day through the Committee Stage, that opportunity would be given to prepare amendments on the Report Stage. I do not see that these opportunities have been given. When one of the Senators wanted to wait he would not be allowed to wait a minute or two. We were given three quarters of an hour and 10 minutes for our lunch. That is the kind of legislation, and it is about time that the Government should go to the country and give an opportunity to the people to return a Government that represents them.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I should like to call attention to the last statement the Senator has made about there being no opportunity given for preparing amendments on the Report Stage. Two days have elapsed, and there was not a single amendment put down from any part of the Seanad.

On a point of correction I would like to point out that the Bill only passed the Committee Stage yesterday.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Well, 24 hours have elapsed.

We were practically all the time sitting.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

You were working for 24 hours, and produced no amendment—all I can say is that is the result.

The reasons I am unable to support the Bill are very much the reasons that Senator Douglas gave. I do not need to detain the Seanad any longer.

Motion: "That the Bill do now pass" put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 10.

  • John Bagwell.
  • Thomas Westropp Bennett.
  • John C. Counihan.
  • Peter de Loughry.
  • The Dowager Countess of Desart.
  • Sir Thomas Henry Grattan Esmonde.
  • Sir Nugent Talbot Everard.
  • Martin Fitzgerald.
  • Right Hon. Earl of Granard.
  • Henry Seymour Guinness.
  • Right Hon. Andrew Jameson.
  • Sir John Keane.
  • Patrick Williams Kenny.
  • The Earl of Kerry.
  • Thomas Linehan.
  • Joseph Clayton Love.
  • James MacKean.
  • John MacLoughlin.
  • The Earl of Mayo.
  • James Moran.
  • Michael O'Dea.
  • Bernard O'Rourke.
  • William O'Sullivan.
  • Colonel Sir William Hutcheson Poe.
  • Mrs. Jane Wyse Power.
  • William Butler Yeats.

Níl

  • James Green Douglas.
  • William Cummins.
  • J.C. Dowdall.
  • Michael Duffy.
  • Thomas Farren.
  • Mrs. Alice Stopford Green.
  • Edward MacLysaght.
  • Thomas MacPartlin.
  • Colonel Maurice Moore.
  • John Thomas O'Farrell.
Motion declared carried.