I beg to move that the Seanad adjourns until Wednesday at 11 a.m. I feel I should apologise for bringing forward this matter on the adjournment after such a strenuous day's work. But, as it is a subject that is causing much uneasiness in Ulster and which involves not only the sovereignty of the country but the lives and the fortunes of the Catholics of Ulster, I feel justified, even at this late hour, in bringing it forward. I want to draw attention to the visit of Mr. Justice Feetham and to the fact that the sitting of the Boundary Commission, of which he is Chairman, has been postponed owing to the action of the British Government in referring to the Judicial Committee of its Privy Council matters which appertain to the Treaty of December, 1921. The visit of Mr. Justice Feetham was welcome news to me until I read the official announcement that he could not enter upon his duties until the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council had decided as to his jurisdiction. While he was on the high seas I was also startled to read a quotation from an article in the London "Times" of, I think, last Friday week, declaring that the construction of the Treaty depended upon a British Act of Parliament passed in the year 1833, in the reign of King William IV., and that the only time this obsolete Act had been availed of was in connection with the African Colony, Rhodesia. I have the greatest respect for the African Dominions, and I do not want to degrade their judges, as Lord Carson did, by importing the nickname "Timbuctoo."
I have seen, however, that Mr. Justice Feetham had emerged from Capetown to Belfast via Dublin, and that "The Times" has contrasted the reasonableness of Sir James Craig with the stubbornness of President Cosgrave. All these things are very disquieting to an Ulster man. As an Ulster man, and, therefore, one vitally interested in the Boundary Question, I wish to ask—and I am sorry that there is no representative of the Government here to answer me—whether our Attorney-General has advised our Government on the new position, which seems to refer the construction of the Treaty to the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council, fixed apparently by the British Colonial Office. I wish to ask whether this Act of 1833 is going to over-ride the Treaty. I do not want to make any mischief. I am simply asking for information. I desire to inquire if our Government has examined the procedure which the British Colonial Office have adopted in blockading the inquiry of Mr. Justice Feetham under the Treaty, by delaying its functions, until Judges from Australia and Canada are consulted under this Statute of King William IV. A number of Ulster men who are seriously concerned in this question have taken the trouble to submit this Act for expert legal opinion, and that expert legal opinion is, that the Act of 1833 has nothing to do with the Boundary Question, and nothing to do with Ireland or any Irish question. It simply concerns maritime questions and questions relating to appeals from the Colonies. Ireland is not Rhodesia, as the London "Times" suggests, and as the late A.M. Sullivan said, "it is not a sand-bank thrown up by the Atlantic Ocean." The compliments paid to Mr. Justice Feetham's impartiality are, no doubt, thoroughly deserved, but he cannot be allowed to plough his lonely furrow, either in Belfast or in Dublin in blinkers. Not only blinkers, but handcuffs and leg irons have been placed upon him by this provision, that the Commission cannot sit until the British Privy Council authorises him to operate.
In all friendliness to President Cosgrave and his Ministry I say that their acquiescence in this situation is absolutely unconstitutional. Why should Mr. Justice Feetham be accepted here if the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council may declare him in a few weeks to be nobody, and state that his Commission cannot sit? The "Times" article praises the acquiescence of Sir James Craig in accepting Judge Feetham's intervention. In Ulster that alone arouses suspicion. I reject Lord Carson's aspersions on the learned Judge, but I have to ask myself the question whether, on the pretence of objecting to Mr. Justice Feetham, a plant is not being engineered to defeat the Treaty, and hand over contrary to the wishes of the inhabitants the control of those portions of the Six Counties that have escaped the ravages of the planter?
Without wishing to be provocative, I hold the opinion that Mr. Justice Feetham should not have visited Dublin or Belfast. These cities are the strongholds of opposing opinions, and nothing can be learned in either city of the wishes of the inhabitants of the disputed area which the Treaty provides for. In Ulster we are tired of this eyewash, and it is not to be wondered at, if the pretences raisedvia this Act of 1833, to blockade the action of Mr. Justice Feetham, to a good many of us savours of bad faith. I ask for information as an Ulster man, and there is nobody here to give it to me. It shows what the people in Ulster fear, the lack of interest which this Government takes in the Ulster question, although it had notice of my intention to move this motion. I gave it personally to the Minister who has left, and although he spent an hour discussing the Treaty of Lausanne, the lives of the Catholics of Ulster are nothing to him, judging by his attitude this evening. I want to know has the British Colonial Office devised this blockade on the entrance upon his duties of Mr. Justice Feetham, and are they, through his visit to Belfast, attempting to suppress the wishes of the inhabitants of the disputed areas?
Dáil Eireann accepted the Treaty as a solution of the international problems between the two islands. No one regarded it as a perfect instrument. No Treaty is perfect. Lawyers, professors and metaphysicians can always be found to discover blotches and pick holes in the work on which statesmen agree. The gist of the Treaty is a friendly agreement between two islands so closely related. The happiness of the two countries depends on friendship, both commercial and political. I suggest to the Government that they should closely scrutinise this Act of 1833, and see whether it has any relation to the position of 1924. To me it seems amazing that the Act of 1833 should control the construction of the Treaty of 1921. As a layman I venture to say that this Act of 1833 has as little relation to Ireland as it has to Honolulu, or may I say, Timbuctoo.