There is one matter in connection with this motion that I would suggest might be altered. The motion assumes the accuracy of the report in the Press. For all the information there is before the Seanad the report in the Press may not be accurate. Therefore, I think it would be well if you put in some words which would suggest the Government taking action if they are satisfied that the report is accurate.
ALLEGATION AGAINST SOLDIERS IN GREAT WAR.
I have altered the motion, and wish to move it in this form:—
That the Seanad hereby resolves that the attention of the President and his colleagues of the Executive Council be directed to a report contained in the Dublin Press of the eighth day of May, 1924, of certain proceedings before District Justice Goff at the Courthouse, Castleblayney, from which it appears that he asked a witness whether it was not a fact that the soldiers during the Great War had to take rum to brutalise them before being sent into action, and hope that they will, if satisfied that the report is accurate, take such action as will serve to vindicate from such a cruel calumny the memory of the many thousands of brave Irishmen who fought and fell in the war.
That is not the motion which is on the Order Paper.
The Senator is asking for leave to alter it.
I think we ought to know what the alteration is. We should have something outside a verbal statement.
The only alteration, I understand, is the insertion of the words "if satisfied that the report is accurate."
Quite the contrary. In one case it mentions a prisoner and in the other case a witness.
That is only a change of phraseology. There is no change of substance. As far as you can gather from the report in the Press, either expression would be accurate.
I do not know whether "prisoner" or "witness" would be accurate. He is described here on the Order Paper as a "prisoner" and in the other case as a "witness."
I think he happened to be both. "Witness," I think, is a better way to put it, because he was giving evidence on his own behalf.
I changed that in the amended form. He was both, as a matter of fact. Several members of this Seanad have served in his Majesty's army and can corroborate the statements which I am about to make. I am sure that the whole of the Seanad will view with as much disgust as I do the insult that has been passed on a brave Irish soldier. This man was a soldier in one of our oldest and most distinguished regiments, namely, the Connaught Rangers. The man had earned the highest distinction which any soldier in the British army could earn, namely, the Victoria Cross, for bravery. He made a statement that he was a teetotaller. I can see no reason why that statement should be doubted. Teetotalism is not an uncommon thing in the army. I myself joined an Irish regiment when I was a boy, and I have had to do with Irish soldiers all through my service. I commanded Irish soldiers in the South African War and also in the Great War. I commanded a division of picked Irish soldiers in the Great War, and later on, one of his Majesty's armies. I ought to be in a position to know if what I am saying is accurate. As far as the accusation is concerned, that the soldiers had been brutalised by giving them an issue of rum before they went into action, it is absolutely untrue. There is an issue of rum as a ration to every soldier when he goes an active service. The issue consists of a very small quantity called a "tot," equal to about a half-glass. Very often the men do not get that ration, the principal reason being that if there is a rapid advance there is difficulty in getting it up to the fighting line.
I can assure the Seanad that there is no foundation for the statement that rum or any other stimulant has ever been issued to soldiers in the British Army to induce them to advance. As far as our Irish soldiers are concerned, I am glad to say that there has been no necessity to give them rum or any other stimulant to make them advance. What the Irish soldier wants is the command to go forward and to be properly led. Many of these soldiers have served in the Irish Free State Army and I believe they are still serving in it. The Irish soldier has for centuries served in practically every country, and in every Army, in Europe, and has always maintained the highest traditions of efficiency and bravery. Irish soldiers have fought for different causes, and very often for different sides, but whatever the cause, they maintained the great reputation, and still maintain it, that they have earned for themselves. The first slur that has ever been cast to my knowledge on Irish soldiers has been cast by a fellow-countryman. This insult has also been levelled at the British Army, in which a great many Senators have had the honour to serve. Whether Senators have been connected with the British Army or not I feel quite certain that there is not a Senator who would not condemn this insult to a body of men who were not present and could not answer it. In Ireland the British Army has always been respected and has been received with welcome and hospitality. I feel convinced that the Seanad would disapprove of the slur that has been cast on that Army in its absence.
I beg to second the motion, not because a foolish person is said to have made foolish statements, but because there is a great deal of misunderstanding in this country, and a great deal of foolish remarks made about Irish soldiers. These remarks are mostly made by people who know very little about Irish history. I think it is opportune to say a few words now about Irish soldiers, their character, and their actions regarding their own country. I do not know what District Justice Goff's national record is, but I do know that the national record of Irish soldiers is of the very highest. Their self-sacrifice for their own country has been quite on a level, and has probably been a great deal more than that of any other part of the population. I will probably say things now that many people will not be in agreement with, because I speak from an entirely different point of view to that of Senator Sir Bryan Mahon. Going back to my earliest recollections of the time of the Fenians, they found more support in military barracks than they did in the country. Numbers of Irish soldiers joined the Fenians and drilled them. The Fenians were not at all ashamed of the fact. We know from James Stevens, who was a head centre of the Fenians, at that time, what support and help they got from Irish soldiers. In those days there was no one to raise a word against Irish soldiers.
Coming along to the next period in which there was any rising, or attempted rising, in this country, we come to the Irish Volunteers which were raised in the years 1913-14, for reasons I will not go into, but which are well known. These Volunteers were organised in about a year. We organised 170,000 Irish Volunteers, who were joined by practically every ex-soldier in Ireland. I think we calculated at that time that about 30,000 Irish ex-soldiers joined the Volunteers, and they made the backbone of that organisation, and in every village the Volunteers were drilled by ex-soldiers. To my knowledge every corps in Dublin was drilled by them. Not a word was then said about Irish soldiers, and in these cases they received no remuneration at all; they came out voluntarily and sacrificed their time and everything else to do the work of the country, and to my knowledge very many of them underwent great dangers in doing so. I happened to be in the North on one occasion, and I found——
On a point of order, are we keeping to the motion on the Order Paper?
Well, we are wandering away from it, I am afraid; I mean Senator Colonel Moore is wandering away from it. I did not like to stop him because I thought he would ultimately come to the motion, but I would suggest to him that he should deal with the subject matter of the motion, which is solely confined to a certain statement alleged to have been made by District Justice Goff in reference to the Irishmen who served in the Great War.
I was following the line of argument adopted by Senator Sir Bryan Mahon, and was speaking of the high character of Irish soldiers.
I did not stop you at that, but when you were going into details about previous events, Senator, you were travelling a little outside the motion. However, you have said it.
I have not said one half of what I intended to say.
Oh, well, please come to the motion.
What I mean to say is this, that the Irish soldiers have established a record, and I am very much astonished that my friends opposite interfered in my speaking about the character of Irish soldiers. It seems to me extraordinary that they should do so, but everybody takes his own line. Irish soldiers have throughout history always shown the greatest patriotism and self-sacrifice. Let us come to the point. Who is this particular man against whom these charges were made? He was a Connaught Ranger, a man of my own regiment. He was a man who earned the Victoria Cross for gallantry; he belonged to a regiment which made the greatest sacrifices that any regiment could possibly have made in the service of Ireland; they had sacrificed everything that made life dear to them, and when a man of this sort is brought up on a charge the District Justice is said—I do not know whether he did or not— to have travelled far outside the limits of his jurisdiction. The facts as to what a man did in France has nothing whatsoever to do with it. What business has he to raise any such questions? Only for the purpose of insulting a brave man and an Irish soldier who, like all other Irish soldiers, had served his country loyally and well. I think I may add this, that I wish Irishmen would have a little more toleration towards those who differ from them in politics or in action. In my time I have known a great many different Parties which arose in this country—the Parnellites, the O'Brienites, the Healyites, the Dillonites, Sinn Feiners, Republicans, and Free Staters. Every one of these have spent their time in attacking each other. As far as I know, not one of them gained any advantage whatsoever from the abuse they heaped on each other. On the contrary, they went down in proportion to the abuse they gave. I think that will always be the fact, and when the late troubles began, I was first to hope that that would be dropped. However, one of the worst parts of this business, if it is true, is that here is a judge who is in a privileged position in which he cannot be answered; neither witness nor prisoner can make any retort to charges of that kind; they must be submitted to. I think it is a very mean and cowardly action, if it were done, to stand up in a position of authority in that way and make charges, not only against a particular man, but against that whole class of man in Ireland, and I, for one, hope that such things will be stopped in future. As I have not been allowed to say all I wish to say, I shall sit down.
I regret that I must dissent from this motion. If the facts are as set out here, my feelings are precisely the same as those of the mover. We all respect brave men, whether they belong to the British army or the National army. I am sorry to have to oppose this motion, if the facts are as stated, but I feel we are entering on a very dangerous course if we, in either House of the Legislature, begin publicly to criticise men put on the Bench. I am so strongly in favour of the independence of those occupying judicial positions that I would have preferred that not even a single resident magistrate who had been appointed should have been interfered with in his office Here, in a very early stage, censure by this House is being put on this man without actually knowing really whether this report is true or not. If it is true, my feelings are as those of the mover and seconder, but even in such a case I think that we had better leave such a judge to the opinion of his fellow judges, or perhaps to some official superior who may draw attention to the matter. I regret to have to oppose this, but in the higher interests of the independence of the administration of justice I must do so.
I rise to say, Sir, that I cannot support the motion for several reasons. This is a legislative assembly and I do not think it is a good precedent to set, at the outset of its career, to bring forward motions other than motions tending to, or leading towards, legislation. Anything else I think would turn the Seanad simply into a platform for the expression of views of one kind or another. It has been my experience of public life that in public Boards, when we got away from the business, we lost a great deal of time and did not secure for ourselves a great deal of consideration. I hope that this motion will not be passed for that reason, and I think that the mover and seconder could have taken another and an easier course to find out if the report in the Press was a true report. There is a Minister in charge of District Justices, and I think that the Minister is sufficiently accessible for either the mover or seconder to approach and find out if the report is true or if it is not. I also strongly object to the motion for this reason: a Press report that I never saw is taken as the basis of it. The only reference that I saw to this occurrence was in Mr. Stephen Gwynn's article in the "Observer" of Sunday week. He there drew attention to the statement as outlined in Senator Sir Bryan Mahon's motion.
It was published in Irish papers.
I saw it in the "Observer," and I did not see it in the Irish papers, though I read them carefully. When District Justices were wanted fifteen months ago, I think few people were very anxious to take up the work. The work was difficult, and the District Justice practically carried his life in his hands. I think that to discuss the action of one of these men now is most unfair. In public life, if a person utter words that are objectionable he is brought somewhere and asked is this true or not, and he is given an opportunity to state the why and wherefore, and why he made the remark. I think the same should be the case with a District Justice. We have not been told by the mover or seconder of the motion what the charge against this ex-soldier was. He was charged with having poteen in his possession. The District Justice operates in County Monaghan, and I believe the traffic in poteen there is on a very large scale. Whoever was defending him sought to bring in extraneous matters. The first thing brought in was that this man, who was charged with having poteen in his possession, was a V.C. The District Justice said that was extraneous. Whoever was defending this man said this man is a teetotaller, and the District Justice said, "How can you be a teetotaler? When you were an English soldier you had your rum ration served out to you." That is the case. We are asked to come here and sit in judgment on a young man who, I understand, is doing difficult and dangerous work in the country for the last fifteen months in an able and conscientious manner. For this reason I will not vote for the motion.
I find it difficult to agree with the two Senators who have just spoken, because surely it is the province of this House to draw attention to and criticise whatever may strike the House as a misdemeanour on the part of a public servant, no matter who or what he may be. I think we should be neglecting our duty if we failed to draw attention to so grave a lapse from duty as it appears Mr. Justice Goff has been guilty of. Senator Mrs. Wyse Power spoke as if the question of what the man who was before Mr. Justice Goff was accused of, was the point at issue. That has nothing to do with it. What we object to are the words which Mr. Justice Goff is reported to have made use of. According to the report I read, Mr. Justice Goff asked whether it was a fact that the soldiers during the Great War had to take rum to brutalise them before being sent into action. These are the words complained of. When I read the report of Mr. Justice Goff's remarks in the "Irish Times"—and I fancy it was in the "Independent," too, but perhaps Mrs. Wyse Power does not study these newspapers—my first feeling was one of astonishment that a public servant in Mr. Justice Goff's position could so far forget himself. I hoped that he was wrongly reported, but there has been a certain amount said about it in the papers—there was a leading article in the "Irish Times"—and it is hardly conceivable if Mr. Justice Goff did not use these words that some contradiction by this time would not have appeared.
I am, therefore, reluctantly compelled to believe he did make use of these words of which we complain. When I think of what we owe to these men who gave and risked their lives in our defence, and when I think of the tyranny from which they saved us by their heroic self-sacrifices, tyranny probably compared to which the worst oppression ever complained of in this country would be liberty indeed, and when I think Mr. Justice Goff dared to insult not only the living among these men but the dead, and that he dared to make use of a Free State court of justice as the platform from which to utter these abominable calumnies, then, Sir, I find it very difficult to find words in which to express the indignation I feel. I can make every allowance for the length to which ignorant prejudice may lead a man, but there are limits. One must draw the line somewhere, and I draw it at insults to those men whom the people of the British Empire and the great nations allied with it have delighted to honour. I hope that the House will, in spite of what has been said by other speakers, express its condemnation of Mr. Justice Goff's action in no uncertain voice. I am glad the Minister for Home Affairs is here to hear that condemnation expressed, and I hope we will hear from him that it will reach Mr. Justice Goff's ears. I should like to hope that he will be able to tell us that either Mr. Justice Goff should be called on to make such an apology as may do something to soothe the outraged feelings of the men whom he so foully slandered, or else resign the Commission of the Peace which, I think, we have only too good reason to fear he is quite unfitted to hold.
Before dealing with the matter in hand, I would like to express to the Seanad my regret that a matter for which I am responsible came before them in my absence. I was dealing with a Bill in the Dáil at the time and I became involved in a discussion and found it difficult to get away. I am also sorry I did not hear the statement of the mover of this motion. I would like to have spoken after the seconder, and I had intended doing so if I could, as I was anxious to prevent, if possible, this matter becoming the subject of a debate which might tend to become a heated debate. I might be acquitted perhaps of any feeling of agreement or sympathy with Mr. Justice Goff's remarks. I have none. An older brother of mine was killed in France, and there is scarcely a home or hamlet in this country that did not send its quota to that world war.
That is a thing that none of us forget. Now, having said that, let me say that if Mr. Justice Goff was guilty of an indiscretion or an error of judgment he was guilty of it in following a thoroughly bad and a thoroughly unsound tradition which existed in this country. I do appeal that this should not be allowed to become a matter of party feeling. Every Senator knows in this country that it was customary for Resident Magistrates, County Court Judges, and Justices of the High Courts to indulge inobiter dicta of a quasi political nature, and in remarks which were bound to give offence to, and to rub the wrong way, a large section of the community. That is a thing to be deprecated and avoided, a thing which, I hope, Justices and Judges in the future will avoid, but that it has been the tradition and the practice here, there is no denying. Looking across the Channel to what is euphemistically described as another place, we find these people in eminent judicial positions—Law Lords—indulging also in very partisan and envenomed political harangues. I think it is as wrong there as here. I think it is wrong everywhere that people who are appointed to positions to administer the law should go outside their sphere and indulge in remarks or suggestions that cannot but give pain to sections of the community.
Now let us not magnify the thing, let us not talk about abominable calumny. Mr. Justice Goff put a question from behind which there peeped out a certain political bias and partisan outlook with regard to events that are passed. That is the sum total of it. Mr. Justice Goff was not appointed to his position as a skilled politician, but for his knowledge of law and knowledge of Irish, and as I say if he overstepped the mark in this matter, it is a mark which has been well overstepped in the past by people occupying similar posts. If we are to have good will and unity here, there must be a scattering of old landmarks, and anything which tends to revive past feelings of bitterness or tension is to be deplored. There was a suggestion that there was a Ministry responsible for the District Justices which could properly be asked about their doings and sayings. This is not quite the position, and nowhere was there stronger feelings in favour of the complete independence of judges than in this House. The price you pay for that complete aloofness and independence is that when there are indiscreet remarks either from Judges of Appeal or from Judges of the High Court or from District Justices you must simply be philosophic about it and let it pass.
The doings and sayings of judges and justices cannot and ought not to be brought under review in either the Dáil or the Seanad. There have been sayings from the Bench which, if it were a proper thing, might well have been brought under review by a motion in the Dáil within the last two years, but they were not brought under review because people recognised that it was better that we should simply swallow those things and let them pass, remembering that once you put a man in a position of independence to administer the law you must simply trust to his own discretion and good taste to avoid giving offence. I would ask the mover and seconder of this resolution whether there is anything to be gained by pressing it to a division so that people may take party lines on the matter and that some who really deplore that the words were spoken would appear to be standing over the District Justice's remarks and others would appear to be condemning them in a personal or bitter way. I think that Senator Sir Bryan Mahon having made his protest—and I can well understand how he feels about the matter— should be content to withdraw his resolution and let the matter rest, remembering that if judges who are older, more mature, and have greater experience have erred, and erred badly in this respect in the past, it is not a source of great surprise that a District Justice of a year's standing might also err.
I would like to ask the Minister if he is aware that any such statement was ever made.
Even though the Minister has spoken, it does not get us away from the fact that the question resolves itself into whether this Seanad is to be turned into an instrument to teach manners to badly mannered justices. I intend to oppose the motion, because I do not think that the Seanad should be made a party to such misconduct and because even though I object strongly to the hypocrisy and mischievous insult of Mr. Justice Goff, I do not think that this Seanad should be called upon or be put at the mercy of anyone who proposes resolutions expressing disapproval of the justices' conduct, because there may be no end to this sort of comment on District Justices. I would just like to remark this, that the chief objection, I think, is to the use of the word "brutal," and to the attitude of mind that seeks to make people believe that soldiers should go into action on buttermilk. If I were required to go over the top, I would require more than a tot of rum, and would be inclined to linger until it was brought up to the front line. When a man talks about soldiers he should talk honestly. I think I have shown that I am as heartily opposed to this breach of manners as General Sir Bryan Mahon, but I am not satisfied that the Seanad should be the vehicle of disapproval of mistakes that may be made in the future, otherwise we will be at the mercy of everyone with a grievance or a sore head.
Hearing what the Minister said, I should like the permission of the House to withdraw the motion.