The section continues:
...shall be deemed not to have been affected by the establishment of the Irish Free State and, for the purpose of the preparation and keeping of the general veterinary register, the Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and their officers shall, subject to the provisions of this Agreement, have and may exercise in relation to persons, colleges and matters in the Irish Free State all such powers, jurisdictions, and authorities under the Charters and the Veterinary Surgeons Acts as the said Council and their officers formerly had and might exercise under the Charters and the said Acts for that purpose in relation to persons, colleges, and matters in Ireland.
I am assuming, but perhaps it is a wrong assumption, that all Senators have read the Agreement. Many Senators will be more concerned than I with the sacred nature of the Constitution of the Free State. At the same time, I think it is a mistake to allow this measure to go through without protesting against the potential amendment of the Constitution which is contained in this clause. At the moment I do not know that it cuts across any particular Article of the Constitution, but it is quite clear that if there is any conflict between the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the Constitution, or any Acts of the Irish Free State, the will of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons prevails and the Constitution and enactments of the Free State Parliament have to be subordinated to the will of that College.
The Minister admitted that this Agreement was the best he could secure. I submit there are certain limits beyond which the Minister, or the Oireachtas, should not be prepared to go in perfecting any Agreement. I submit that in this Agreement we have one instance. This Agreement does not carry out even the will of the British Parliament. It is true the Right Honourable J. H. Thomas signed the Agreement, but he did that for a comparatively subordinate body in England, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. It is neither dignified nor right that our Constitution and enactments of the Oireachtas should be set aside in deference to the will of any such subordinate body as the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
There are many people in this country who have been vitally affected by reason of the altered conditions since the Treaty. We have civil servants who might reasonably argue that, by reason of the fact that their activities are going to be confined to this country, the scope for progress for very brilliant men or women is thereby limited. Ordinary workers could argue that by virtue of their position in the Free State as compared with the position of similarly placed persons in Northern Ireland or Britain they are deprived of certain benefits such as pensions at 65 and uncovenanted benefits, commonly known as the dole. No doubt in comparison with workers in those other places they feel they are suffering certain hardships. I think we cannot reasonably argue that the veterinary surgeons of this country will be suffering any greater hardships than any other people.
Speaking now from the material, and not from the national or spiritual point of view, the position is that certain advantages were supposed to accrue to citizens through the creation of the Free State. Inevitably in certain cases certain disadvantages had to be encountered because of the limitations of the country. I do not see that a reasonable case could be made for the veterinary surgeons of this country to ensure that they will not suffer any hardship. My own conviction is that the Bill should afford sufficient scope for the development of veterinary science so as to enable us to assimilate all the graduates who would be turned out by the College of Veterinary Surgeons in this country. I suggest it would be better for us to do without the privileges, whatever they may be, involved in membership of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. We should create, within our own State, a College in which the degree will be a purely Irish degree. I believe that if the educational authorities and the Irish Veterinary College established a sufficiently high standard, in a very short time the degree of the Irish College could be made equal to that of the British Royal College. Professional degrees of that type can quickly be established if it becomes generally known that the standard is high, and that in order to obtain the degree students must possess at least all the qualifications necessary for a similar degree in other countries.
I cannot see that there is any justification for association with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. There is certainly no reason why such association should be made the basis of an Agreement under which the Constitution of our country and certain enactments of the Oireachtas are set aside I am not so vitally concerned with the honour and the credit of the Constitution. From a political point of view I might well argue that it would be a good thing to see the Constitution changed. As a Party we have hope to see it very drastically changed, and we will take all possible steps to see that certain things that are in it to-day will be removed. We would like to see going into it now such changes as would tend to lead towards national progression. This particular measure is, in my opinion, a retrograde step.
I am not sufficiently well versed in legal technicalities to be able to state the purpose of the various Constitution Amending Acts that have been passed through this House. I know there is a considerable difference of opinion, even amongst the leading members of the Bar, with regard to them. I do resent this clause appearing in an Agreement which is signed on behalf of Britain by the Rt. Honourable J. H. Thomas and on behalf of the Free State by the Minister because, to my mind, it automatically sets aside any Article of the Constitution, or any Act of the Oireachtas, which may run in conflict with a decisíon of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. It might be humiliating to have to bow the knee to eminent lawyers, and it might be humiliating to have to bow the knee to the medical profession; but certainly bowing the knee to decisions of the cow-doctors of England is something beyond my idea of what we ought to stand for in this House. I propose to vote against this measure.