I do not think it is necessary to enter into any long explanation with regard to this Bill. As Senators are aware it has been already before them. It was passed by the Seanad with certain amendments with which the Dáil did not agree, and according to Article 38a of the Constitution, when in certain circumstances a Bill which the Seanad has not passed, or which is only passed with amendments to which the Dáil does not agree, the Bill by a resolution of the Dáil can be sent back to the Seanad. Two sets of circumstances were envisaged in the Constitution, one, that after a period of eighteen months from the date on which the Bill was first sent to the Seanad a resolution of the kind which has been passed by the Dáil might be passed and the Bill sent back, or if a dissolution of the Dáil occurred in the meantime, a resolution could be passed by the Dáil on reassembly. The period of eighteen months runs from the date the Bill was first sent to the Seanad, on May 19th of last year. That is the date from which the eighteen months would run were it not that another set of circumstances arose. Instead of that, we have had within the period a dissolution of the Dáil, and on the 1st March the resolution required by the Constitution was passed by the Dáil. These are the circumstances in which the Bill is before the Seanad. As it has been already discussed very fully I do not think there is any need to take up the time of the Seanad in explaining its terms now.
Public Business. - Constitution (Removal of Oath) Bill, 1933—Second Stage.
As the President has stated, a good deal has happened since the Seanad rejected this Bill last year. At that time the Bill was amended in Committee. Practically the same amendment has been put down now to the Second Reading. It would appear that the extremists seem to have got the better of the others who accepted the principle of the Bill. Now they do not seem to accept anything, principle or otherwise. It seems to me that the more electors vote for the Bill the more determined certain Senators are to oppose it. When the Bill was before the Seanad last year there was in favour of it the decision of a general election at which it had been advocated, and the consent of the Dáil. That is changed now, and not only one general election and one Dáil, but two general elections and two Dáils have passed the Bill. In spite of that, we still find that amendments are coming up here. In the past it was certainly considered to be a very extreme measure to throw out any Bill in the Final Stages under any circumstances. The Seanad was then considered to be a revising Chamber, a delaying Chamber. It was considered very strange that during the previous ten years not on one single occasion did the Seanad finally throw out a Bill brought forward by the Government. They amended it. Even when the most extreme Fascist Bill ever brought into any Parliament was brought before it the Seanad accepted it. Since then there has been a new election and a new Dáil. In spite of that certain Senators now wish to postpone the Bill for some indefinite time. If the Seanad is going to take up that position—and I hope it will not —it will be a very serious matter for Senators to establish themselves as the controlling element in this country, and only a controlling element in a moderate way, because apparently the whole revising and fusing powers are to be across the water.
I should remind the Seanad that this is not the only Upper House that has come into conflict with the popular Chamber. In England the House of Lords got into a controversy with the House of Commons, the result being that powers were taken away from the Lords or modified to a very considerable extent. We do not know what is going to happen here in the future. Certainly if this Chamber changes from being a revising and delaying body it will get into a very serious position and it will be all the worse if it advocates that any Bill passed here is to be sent across the water for acceptance. It seems to be quite clear that the amendment which is to be proposed means that it is not the electorate of the Free State but a body across the water is to decide whether this measure is to go through or not. When they come to speak I would like Senators to explain if they approve of that. I could understand the Seanad with its own procedure refusing to pass this Bill, but to say that it is to go across the water to be signed by the final power over there——
I do not like to interrupt you, Senator, but really you are speaking to an amendment which has not yet been proposed.
I am talking of things that may be said.
We cannot take cognisance of them yet. You will have an opportunity when the thing is de facto. You have said nothing at all in favour of the Bill, the Second Reading of which has been moved.
In advocating the Bill I must criticise statements that have been made in the past, and that are likely to be made in the future. Otherwise the Bill could not be amended at all. I am not touching the amendment.
I am very glad to hear that. It seemed to me that you were.
I am considering what may be done. I should like to know on what principle there is opposition. Is it that the Seanad objects to the Bill or that it considers it should be referred to an external country to decide? According to what many people say, and to what was done here at the last meeting, that seems to be the case. I want to know if the final executive is to be in the Irish people or in London—not Dublin. That seems to be the object attained up to the present. There is no other object, because, in any case, the Bill is going through in two months, whether this House likes it or does not like it. It seems to me that the only object of the amendment is to go back to a system which has not been in force for years. Some individuals I believe, both now and in previous times, have advocated negotiation between the parties concerned. That has been done in the Dáil and other places. Well, people do not go out for negotiation in a matter when they know there is only one side to it and when they know from experience that such negotiation will lead to nothing. I think that Senators ought to look into the experience, not only of years, but of centuries and see whether negotiation is of any use in this matter and whether, in view of the experience of the past, Ireland is likely to get a fair chance in the matter. If history proves that ever on any single occasion has negotiation between this country and the other countries succeeded, then I say go in for negotiation. But so far as my experience and knowledge of history is concerned there is not a single case in the history of the last 150 years of any important case in this country having been accepted by the people across the water. They resisted every one as long as they could and only accepted when they could not help it. I would ask people who criticise this to explain that question; what right have they to suppose that there would be any acceptance across the water?
I would remind Senators that this is not the first time that an Oath has been a great question between this country and the other country. I have here a list of the main advantages which we have gained in our struggle for freedom in the last 150 years, every single one of which has been bitterly resented and bitterly resisted and only accepted when there was a definite struggle in this country that could not be resisted. First of all, there was the struggle for commercial equality in 1778, and that was carried by force. The Parliamentary Independence of 1782 was also gained by force against the determination of the people on the other side. Then came the question of Emancipation. That was a question of an Oath and therefore somewhat resembled this present question. At that time every member of Parliament and everybody required for a particular business had to take an oath to the King of England. How was that done away with? For years that had been a matter of discussion and of attempted accommodation and struggles for agreement, which were hopeless, by all the greatest men of the time. Men such as Burke, Sheridan, Grattan and others had advocated it and all failed until O'Connell came. O'Connell took the question into his own hands and held monster meetings all over the country until at last the Duke of Wellington said that he could not guarantee the peace of the country unless that Oath were abolished; and it was abolished. That was a question very similar to the present one. During all those years the abolition of that Oath was attempted and struggled for in Ireland by talk and by negotiation and all those attempts utterly failed until O'Connell came along and said: "We will have no more talk or no more negotiation, but will simply stand fast for this and proceed in our own way"; and at once they succeeded. After that came the Tithe Act—another great fight in this country—which was refused for ages and finally accomplished by force and loss of blood. After that came the question of the disestablishment of the Irish church and the Land Acts. Mr. Gladstone himself said that they could not have been passed if Clerkenwell prison had not been blown up. Coming to our own times, we had the setting up of the Free State, such as it was. Anybody can see whether that was accomplished by negotiation or by force. So there we have a whole list of things, coming up to our own day, where not a single case can be brought forward in which negotiation ever had the slightest effect and where determination to carry through on our own part and in our own way have been the means adopted which have always succeeded.
It seems to me that Senators who have this idea that negotiation between the two countries will settle everything seem to think that you will meet nice, kindly old gentlemen over there who will shake your hand and ask you what you require and say: "Yes, you can have anything you desire." They are very much mistaken in that case. We never get anything we want in that way. The late Mr. Redmond, who was certainly one of the best Parliamentary Leaders of his time and one of the best negotiators, when the question of Partition arose took part in negotiations between this country and the other country. Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Asquith gave him their written terms that if certain things were agreed to in this country it would be carried through by England. He came over here and risked his reputation to get an agreement among the Six Counties for temporary Partition. He went back to the House of Commons and found that the people there were counting on his failure over here—and indeed it had not looked as if he would succeed—and when they found that he had succeeded they tore up the agreement. The result of that was that all the Irish members of Parliament walked out of the House together. They suffered that from negotiation. After that we know what happened when the people took the matter into their own hands and fought it out here. The result was that we gained what we wanted.
I do not think that we should do that kind of thing again. All I want to say is that these things should be settled in our own country and not across the water where they never will succeed. President Cosgrave made an agreement—a private agreement—and the result was that he had to pay a good deal of money and got Partition into the bargain. Of course, in any case, there is not the least prospect or idea, in this question of the Oath, about any negotiation whatsoever. We consider that in this country we have a right to decide our own questions and that this question of the Oath is a domestic question. Whether you come into this House or not, or whether you come into the Dáil or not, is a question for ourselves and not for across the water, and we do not intend to take any negotiations on the subject because it is our right, and we are determined to carry that out.
In addition to that, that is really sufficient from our own point of view because it is the only way that anything proper can be done; but supposing that it were not, what is the state of the case? I suppose that those who are against this Act oppose it on the presumption that it is against the Treaty. That, I presume, is their chief objection. But we have excellent legal authority to say that it is a domestic question and that the Oath need not be included in the Constitution. When the present Constitution, or what was the Constitution of 1922, was in the first drafting, there were on that Committee that drew up the Constitution two men with the highest legal position in the country, the present Chief Justice and Judge Fitzgibbon. They drew up a Constitution in which no Oath was included. We can only conclude from that that those eminent legal authorities did not consider that it was necessary to have an Oath at all in the Constitution and that its exclusion was not a breach of the Treaty. That was altered across the water like many other things, but that was the opinion of these very eminent legal authorities who cannot be called extremist or prejudiced in any way. So, therefore, we consider, merely as a legal matter and apart from anything else, that the Oath is a domestic question for ourselves alone to decide and for nobody else.
I might go into other questions such as the Act of Westminister and other items, but I think that it is hardly necessary and I shall say no more except that I beg to second the motion.
To delete all after the word "That" and to substitute therefor the words "the Seanad declines further to consider the Constitution (Removal of Oath) Bill, 1933 until it has been made the subject of negotiation between the Executive Council and the British Government with a view to an amicable agreement."
I was amused to hear Senator Moore speaking of me as an extremist. I can assure him that I am not in the slightest degree an extremist and that if it were possible for me to settle the affairs of this country I would certainly settle them in a way in which even the Senator himself would agree with me. The trouble here is this. Senators honestly believe that this Oath Bill is a violation of the Treaty. Many of them think that, and many people in the country believe it also. Your own Attorney-General says that there can be two honest opinions as to whether the Oath is obligatory in the Treaty or not. He said that in the Dáil. If there can be two honest opinions, surely there is another side of the question than that of taking the rigid attitude that it is not obligatory in the Treaty and that, therefore, there is no other question. The reason we do not agree is because there is definitely in the country the knowledge that this Oath is explicitly stated in the Treaty and they do not want to violate the Treaty by passing this Bill.
Of course we know that the Bill will pass in 60 days despite our opposition and that it will be futile to take up the attitude that we can prevent it from becoming law. But what is in our minds is that we do not want to take responsibility for its passing. Having the opinion in our minds that this Bill is a violation of the Treaty, we will not take the responsibility. This attitude is not due to antagonism to the Government at all. No Senator, as far as I know, has any antipathy to the Government. On the contrary, they are anxious to help them in every way. They know this Bill will become law, but they will not take the responsibility of placing it on the Statute Book.
Notwithstanding what has been said, there has been great advance made by negotiation. Senator Moore says that we never won anything by negotiation. What about the removal of the Appeal to the Privy Council? Was not that removed by negotiation?
It is there yet.
It is there yet in theory, but not in practice. In any case, it was the subject of negotiation, and as a result of that negotiation it is a dead letter to-day. In the same way, a similar argument can be applied to the Oath. I am not really a man to speak on matters of Constitutional Law. I am moving this motion simply because I do not wish to put on the Statute Book, by my vote, a Bill which, I believe, is violating the Treaty. That is the reason I am moving it. That is the reason I am asking the Seanad on that point alone not to give this Bill any further consideration; to let it become law by the process of the Constitution and not take the responsibility on your own shoulders of placing on the Statute Book a Bill which violates the Treaty.
I beg to second the amendment proposed by Senator Wilson. I would like to say with regard to what Senator Colonel Moore said, that we cannot hold up this measure indefinitely; that, of course, if we could, many of us would feel we were not entitled to do so. But we could hold it up for 60 days, and, at the same time, let the public understand that we disapproved of the passing of this measure on the lines set out in the amendment. I would remind the House that, when this measure was introduced into this assembly, Senator Connolly pointed out that those of us who opposed the measure would, in 100 years from now, be regarded in exactly the same light as the men were regarded who passed the Act of Union. I would remind the House that the people who passed the Act of Union were solely influenced by bribery and corruption. I maintain, no matter what any other member of the Seanad may maintain, that we are acting absolutely in what we consider is the interest and for the honour of our country. The effect of this Bill so far justifies, I think, the attitude that we take up. After all, our main industry, the hope of this country, is agriculture. We hold that agriculture should be pushed on and advanced as far as possible, because, in that way, we hope to see our country thrive. To my mind, the Government make one mistake and it is this. Everyone up to this advocates the view that if you want industry in this country to develop you can only hope to do so by making your main industry prosperous. What was the cause of the rise of Belfast? It was not their industries. What really made Belfast a successful city was that the farming community round about Belfast has privileges enjoyed by no other part of Ireland.
Now let us see what has happened since this measure was brought forward. The wealth that comes to this country must come from the sale of our surplus agriculture. I think there can be no denying that. Look at what the effect has been. The Minister for Industry and Commerce in the Dáil the other night stated that the railways were not essential now to our country. I am not at all disposed to agree with him, but we cannot close our eyes to the fact that since the 1st August last the railway traffic in this country has fallen off by about £12,000 a week. In other words, by practically £1 per head of the men employed on the railways. If the present impasse continues can any one say how that £12,000 is to be replaced to the railways? It was not because we were up against motor traffic during that time, because the motors themselves were practically at a stand-still. Therefore, I say we must, all of us, try and get the best market we can get for our surplus agricultural produce. And I say that one of the great reasons I have in voting for this amendment is that it gives the hope—a slender hope perhaps it may be—that within the next 60 days there may be some settlement come to upon this question, which I maintain is vital to Ireland.
All my life I have striven to promote Irish industries. I have taken a great deal of interest in them. I have preached upon the subject and practised the virtue of buying and supporting, in every way, what is made in our country. But let us examine quietly what we propose to substitute for our agriculture. We have started, and I am sure it will be very successful, a silk factory in Cork. We have a boot factory and we have tweed factories there already, and all this should stimulate the current depression. But there is a point that we have to bear in mind and that is that there is more money spent upon each of these industries, such as raw material imported for their manufacture, than wages paid to the operatives employed there. That is a very nice question. I repeat it. In connection with our boot trade, our tweed factories, our silk and hosiery trade, there is more money paid as the price of exports from outside than in wages to the workers.
May I also point out that every scrap of stuff used for the making of these articles is material imported at very great expense from foreign parts. We have to import our coal as we know. There is another very important thing to remember as well about all these things. Generally speaking they are all bought from countries with which we do not trade. The result is that we have to pay cash down. That cash is to be found by exports. We create no cash in this country; and the only market we have for our goods is the British market. When we send over £100 worth of material we get back £60 to pay for all the commodities we have to buy outside Ireland.
Now there is a question I would like to ask. We have three or four very eminent professors in our Constituent College in Cork dealing with political economy. I would like to see a pronouncement from them as to the effect on our trade of the conditions under which we are trading to-day. Does it not follow that we must become insolvent? Bear in mind material is not everything. It may surprise some Senators to know that we, in Ireland, have between 80 and 90 per cent. of the raw material that would turn out a motor car whether it be a "Tin Lizzie" or the most modern Rolls Royce. We have coal in Kilkenny; copper in West Cork; all along the Blackwater iron ore mines that are inexhaustible. Over 300 years ago, in the reign of Elizabeth, Lord Cork bought the rights of the mines there——
The Senator is making a very pretty speech no doubt——
So did you, Senator.
The Lord Cork of that day obtained £4,000 a year for the mining rights around Cappoquin. He made a fabulous fortune out of the mining there, and he ceased to mine, not because the mine petered out, but because the timber used in smelting the ore became exhausted. That shows that even if you have the raw material for any article in your country it is often more economic and cheaper to procure a more suitable material from foreign parts.
There is just one thing I would like to say. I do not notice the politicians who approve this course continuing to assert that Ireland is self-contained. It was rather fashionable some time ago. I would point out to the Seanad that, so far as I know, there is only one country in the world which is self-contained and that is Tibet. It may, for all I know to the contrary, be a Utopia, but through the smoke screen that surrounds that country certain facts have emerged. I believe there are no railways or motor cars there. Even the harmless necessary "bike" is absent. There is no electric light, no gramophones or wireless, and, to my mind, they suffer the greatest privation of all, for throughout the length and breadth of Tibet there is not one single newspaper——
And still they are happy.
I really think that the most insular of us would not like our country to resemble Tibet. There is a certain wanderlust about the Gael, and very few of us would like to be confined to this island for the rest of our lives. I make this point to show that, in my judgment, we ought to strain every nerve to improve our position. I would like to repeat, that slender though the hope be, this effort to bring about a settlement certainly justifies, in my opinion, the right of Senators to vote for this amendment.
I stated my views upon this Bill when it was before the House previous to the general election. I do not want to repeat the arguments I used then, and nothing has occurred since the general election to change the opinion I had with regard to this Bill. We passed the Bill previous to the general election with one amendment, and that amendment was to the effect that before this Bill became law there should be agreement sought with the British Government. I would like to hear from the President what has been done since then to meet the wishes of the Seanad. Has he made any move to try and get an agreement upon the Bill? If he says that the Government have done so, and that they have been refused accommodation, it would alter my attitude towards this resolution and, also, the attitude of a good many other Senators. We oppose this Bill until the President tries to get an agreement, or, at least, makes a reasonable attempt to get accommodation. We have been told that the Oath is gone, with or without the consent of the Seanad. I want to say that many of us who have no objection to taking this Oath would not shed any tears if it goes. I should be glad to see it gone.
But we will not be here then.
But I want to see it go in a proper manner. We object to its being removed in the manner in which this Bill proposes to remove it. We object to the Oath Bill because it is a breach of the Treaty. Otherwise we are not concerned with the Oath, but we are concerned with maintaining the Treaty intact. We are concerned with maintaining friendly relations with Great Britain and with the British Commonwealth of Nations. If the removal of this Oath is the first step towards breaking our connection with the British Commonwealth of Nations, I think that is a sufficient cause for this House to object to that removal. Senator Moore said that it has been dictated across the water without the authority of this House. Senator Moore knows, if he is honest, that there is not a word of truth in that and that the majority of us here would back up our Government, no matter what Government we had, Fianna Fáil, Labour or Cumann na nGaedheal, when they put forward a reasonable proposition, but we believe that their attitude in this matter is not consistent with the best interests of our country or with the honour of the country and for that reason we support the amendment.
I would like to oppose this amendment in the strongest terms and to appeal to members of the Opposition not to be led into the same trap as that into which Senator Wilson has apparently been led, that is, to be the mouthpiece of somebody else, perhaps more disappointed than he as a result of the events which have taken place in the last couple of years. I cannot for a moment understand what idea prompted Senator Wilson to bring forward this amendment. Perhaps he wishes it to be known to the world that he at least qualifies for that description of his Party subscribed to by Senator Counihan some time ago, as the most ardent supporters of the British in this country. Perhaps he wants his name to go down to posterity as the one great man, the man who fought the lone battle for a lost cause in his country, the cause of British supremacy or the right of interference by the British in the domestic affairs of the people of this country.
In view of the various discussions that have taken place here and elsewhere, it is scarcely necessary to debate this question very much further. It has been argued, fairly successfully in my opinion, that the Oath is absolutely unnecessary. If the Oath is unnecessary, then as unnecessary Oaths are repugnant to reason and religion alike, surely there is no reason why the people of this country should be further subjected to this humiliation of taking what is very definitely an unnecessary Oath. I think it was Senator Counihan who spoke about the Oath being a violation of the Treaty. That matter has also been discussed at length, but I should like to remind Senator Counihan and Senator Wilson, who seem to be a little befogged as to the legal side of the question, that in Section 4 and Section 12 of the so-called Treaty the same indefinite phrase occurs, in Section 4 with regard to the Oath to be taken and in Section 12 with regard to the Boundary Commissioner to be appointed.
When it was a question of the Boundary, the Northern representatives refused to accept responsibility. They challenged the interpretation of that phrase with the result that the British Government admitted that there was a good legal claim in that instance and their attitude was acquiesced in by Mr. Cosgrave, who was President at the time, and by the several members of his Party, some of whom are here now. When it was a question of such vital importance as the division of this country, the partition of the Six Counties from the rest of Ireland, there was not a murmur from the members who are now talking, but when it is a question of an Oath, which really does not matter according to Senator Counihan— according to him, and several other Senators as well, it is a question of very little importance—they will not accept the interpretation in which they acquiesced in the case of the more important matter of the Boundary.
The amendment proposes
To delete all after the word "that" and to substitute therefor the words "the Seanad declines further to consider the Constitution (Removal of Oath) Bill, 1933, until it has been made the subject of negotiation between the Executive Council and the British Government with a view to an amicable agreement."
"Until it has been made the subject of negotiation"—I dare say that means that we should appeal to the British Government on this question of the Oath. Why should we appeal to them on a question which we have a perfect legal right to decide? The fact that we did appeal to the British Government would be a direct repudiation of our legal right to settle this question for ourselves. A recognition of England's claim to have anything to do with this matter would, as I say, be a repudiation of our right and a badge of inferiority which would follow us to the grave. The fact that we accepted England's right in this question, if we did accept it, and I feel sure we shall not—we cannot even if we wanted to do it—would in all probability eventually lead to the removal of any right we possessed ourselves.
According to various statesmen here and elsewhere members of the Commonwealth of Nations are all on equal terms. If that is so, as we are supposed to believe it is, why not appeal to South Africa? Why not appeal to Canada? Why not appeal to any of the other Dominions? England has no more right to interfere in our affairs than has Canada or South Africa.
The Treaty was made with England not with South Africa.
The Treaty of 1921.
It is too bad that my friend from Peru, where the nuts come from, should interfere at this stage. It is good to hear his voice at last. I hope he got a proper "rise" when he was crossing the Equator and that he did not get 'flu as a result of it.
That is no answer.
The Senator nearly upset me altogether. The Statute of Westminster, a quotation from which I have got here, says:
No law or no provision of any law made after the commencement of this Act by the Parliament of a Dominion shall be void or inoperative on the ground that it is repugnant to the law of England or to the provisions of any existing or future Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom or to any order, rule or regulation made under any such Act and the powers of the Parliament of a Dominion shall include the power to repeal or amend any such Act, order, rule, or regulation in so far as the same is part of the law of the Dominion.
According to that, it is fairly clear that we have a perfect right to remove this Oath from the Constitution, if we so desire. Twelve months ago there might have been some excuse for some of the speeches that have been made here to-day, but after two elections within 12 months, the ordinary people down the country, not alone the grown-up people, but the school children, know all about this Oath, and they know also that the Seanad has absolutely no power to hold it up. I have no hesitation in saying that this amendment will be received down the country as the last kick of British Imperialism in this country, just something to prove that there was still somebody here to stand up for the flag, but I hope there will not be very many when it comes to a vote, if it does come to a vote.
It has been stated time and again that this was not by any means an important matter, that it was merely a matter of sentiment, but the people who make such statements forget that because of this particular sentiment a few years ago hundreds of the young men of this country were killed and thousands flung into jail. While these things were happening there was not one word, as far as I know, from the people who now fill the Opposition Benches, that further executions should be held up pending negotiations between the parties concerned, not one word to suggest anything of the kind. Neither was there a word from the economists when the courts of this country, costing something like a quarter of a million, were being turned into ridicule and another type of machinery was set up to take their place, at perhaps greater expense. There was not one word from any of those people at that time. They all agree now that this Oath does not matter. Well, if it does not matter, if we agree with them that it is a matter of no consequence, why then should we pretend, as is suggested by the amendment, that the people of the country are still prepared to hold on to the chains of slavery from which they have been freed?
We could perhaps be tolerant with Senator Wilson and his amendment if we believed that it was due to mere stupidity. I believe that that would be the most charitable thing to say about the amendment, but I believe it is something far more serious, as it happens. I do not for a moment blame Senator Wilson or Senator Crosbie, who has already been complimented by Senator Colonel Moore for his flowery speech. While I am speaking, I should like also to compliment him. It was a very beautiful speech, but most irrelevant in my opinion. He could have contributed it equally well on the next question for debate, the Agricultural Cereals Bill. However, it was quite interesting to hear him ramble from silk stockings to agriculture, and I should like to hear him on subjects on which he is admittedly so fluent when they come up for debate. As I say, we could excuse Senator Wilson if we believed that the amendment was due to mere stupidity. But the thing I object to is that a man like Senator Wilson, who has on various occasions convinced some people, even if he has not convinced me, that he was possessed of a considerable amount of wisdom, should allow himself to be made the mouthpiece of a person on the other side of the House, probably a person whose mind has been wrecked by the strain of those years of the civil war. If "stupidity" is not the word which would describe this motion, the only other word I could substitute would be "lunacy," and I leave to Senator Wilson to accept the lesser of two evils.
We could perhaps also ignore his resolution if we believed that it was just jabber, typical of that which comes as a rule from the members of the Party he represents but, as I say, it is something more serious than that. It is an attempt to mock the memory of every man who has fought and died for this country in the past; an attempt to mock the memory of the men who gladly laid down their lives that the people of this country might be free, and I hope that this amendment will meet, at the hands of the Seanad, the fate that it deserves, and that it will be flung back in the face of Senator Wilson, and that it will be an indication to him or anybody like him that the people of this country are determined once and for all to be free.
This troublesome question of Ireland has been settled by the British Government in every generation. Yes, it has been settled with a few nationally weak-minded men in this country, but I can assure the members of this House that the troublesome question of Ireland, so far as England is concerned, will never be settled until England accepts the fact that the people of this country have a God-given right to be free and until we have in this country government of the people for the people and by the people—government by consent of the governed. With those words, I oppose the motion in the strongest terms.
I think the President was right when he said that no good purpose could be served by debating the Oath Bill at length. To my mind, there is only one issue at the moment before the Seanad and it is a comparatively simple one. It is not a question of the merits or otherwise of the Bill. I have stated that I believe that an agreement could have been reached in this matter. I still believe so. The position is not a matter of who is right or as to whether or not this is obligatory in the Treaty. There is a Treaty and there is a difference of opinion between two Governments representing two signatories. The dignified, wise and proper way is, first, to see if agreement can be reached and, then, to take your action afterwards. We took that stand when the Bill reached us before, and the only question now is should we maintain that position or should we say: "No, circumstances have changed and we can now vote for and support this Bill." For my part, I cannot see that circumstances have changed. The majority in the Seanad could take either of two courses. They could have abstained and simply left the matter, stating: "It means nothing because, in 60 days, this will be law," or they could say: "We affirm the same position we took before. We would have welcomed or passed this Bill if it had been a matter of negotiation but we cannot take the responsibility of doing so otherwise." If that is the position we are to take, and I am prepared to take that position now, I think that the motion of Senator Wilson was the better way of dealing with it than by going through all the stages, putting in an amendment again and sending it back to the Dáil. I, for that reason, will support it, but I do not believe that any good to the House or to the country will be gained by going over all the arguments again or by trying to question the sincerity of this person or the other on the side he may have taken on the main issue.
I am not in full agreement with the last speaker who thinks that no purpose is to be served by debating this matter, but I am in agreement with the idea that certain circumstances have changed since this measure was previously before the House. Circumstances have changed but the issue involved has not changed, and, though the time for arguing the matter may have passed, the time for marking in the most effective manner dissent from the policy which this Bill indicates, I think, emphatically, was never more opportune than the present. We had Senator Quirke suffering from what I can only describe as an inferiority complex, making his speech from the dock. I thought he was going to finish up by announcing that he was writing Emmet's epitaph. That is the kind of post-war heroics that is going to serve neither the State nor any individual in the country. That is the kind of thing that has befuddled the public mind and prevented a clear conception of what are the real interests of this State. Senator Quirke referred to the people who will support this amendment of Senator Wilson as being, I think, he said, "The last stalwarts in support of British ascendancy here." Senator Quirke knows as well as that he is sitting there that there is not an atom of truth in that statement. He knows as well as that he is uttering those words that there are people standing in opposition to the policy of the Government on this matter who have as sound and as good and as militant national traditions as he has himself.
What do you know about it?
I was prepared, if there was to be a competition in records, to take the chance of putting my record against the Senator's. This should not be a question of trying to utilise this Chamber as a means of anti-Free State propaganda and, listening to Senator Quirke, from the beginning to the end of his speech, one could discern no other purpose, no other object, than to utilise this so that to-morrow in the organ of his Party an anti-Free State speech would be reported. That is the kind of thing that is beneath contempt and is a line of approach which should not be indulged in by any serious member of this Assembly on any serious question.
The issue in this Bill and the issue in this amendment is not so much the Oath. It is a bigger question. It is this: Is the Treaty, an international agreement solemnly entered into between two State entities, to be honoured only until it is convenient to one of the State members to break it with impunity? That is the issue, that is the principle involved and not the mere question of the Oath, and it is a deep and far-reaching and, to my mind, a sinister principle which, if persisted in, if made the basis of State policy in this country, is bound to have far-reaching and bitterly adverse effects on this country in years to come. The Treaty of which this Oath clause was an essential Article has been ratified by three general elections in this country. I say that it was a vital and essential clause, although Senator Moore seems to doubt that, but, as a test of whether it was or not, I ask him would that Treaty have ever been secured without that clause of the Oath being embodied in it? Senator Moore knows as well as he knows anything that it would never have been secured. This Treaty, which it is now proposed to violate without consultation with the other party to it, has been ratified by three general elections and it is obvious to me, at any rate, that neither President de Valera nor the Executive Council consider that the decision of the people so registered in three general elections has been reversed by the decision of recent elections. I say that it is obvious that they are not convinced of that, because the Executive Council to-day is the Executive Council of the Irish Free State and not of an Irish Republic, and President de Valera functions to-day as President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State. Therefore, he must have in his mind the idea that the ratification of this Treaty by the citizens of this State has not yet been annulled, has not yet been reversed, and the basis upon which that ratification of the Treaty was given is the instrument of which this Article dealing with the Treaty is an essential part.
On the last occasion on which I spoke on this measure, I moved an amendment on Committee Stage in the following terms:—
This Act shall not come into force until an agreement has been entered into between the Government of the Irish Free State and the British Government providing that Article IV of the Treaty of 1921 shall cease to have effect and such agreement has been ratified and approved by resolution of Dáil Eireann.
That amendment was passed by the Seanad and, subsequently, Senator Counihan asked the President to inform the House as to what had been done to meet the wishes of the Seanad. I am going to repeat that request. We are entitled to know if anything has been done by the Executive Council to try to give effect to that decision of the Seanad. It was taken on 8th June, 1932, and it is now 15th March, 1933. Some nine months have elapsed. Since then, has any attempt been made by the Executive Council to get agreement between the parties to this matter in order to secure an amicable settlement? I believe nothing has been done, because the Executive Council, suffering from that inferiority complex so evident in Senator Quirke's speech, feel that their approach to the British will never be regarded as the approach of equal to equal, but as the approach of an inferior appealing to a superior. We take our stand on quite a different basis. We assert that in the Commonwealth of Nations we have an equal status with Britain and that in matters of mutual interest to two members of it approach can be made from one to the other without any derogation of status, or without any presumption that it is the approach of an inferior to a superior.
Is it the fixed basis of policy of the Executive Council that this State, having entered into treaties with other States, will be at liberty to abrogate any section or clause of such treaties at its own sweet will without consultation with the other party to them? I say that is the basis upon which the Executive Council appear to have acted up to the present. It is a basis of policy which is bound to play havoc with the fortunes and international relations of this country in the future, if it be adhered to. No member of the Labour Party has spoken yet.
They will later.
I am glad to hear that. I thought they were going to play the part—to borrow a phrase used by the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance—of dumb-driven cattle, and just go to the division lobby without stating what their views are.
That is like a lot of the Senator's other thoughts.
I did not hear what the Senator said. We will have to get some amplifiers here.
The Senator says you are welcome back.
But lest, perhaps, the Labour Party should stray from what is its clear line of duty to adopt in this debate I want to quote for its members an extract from a speech made by the Leader of the Party in the Dáil on the 16th August, 1927. He is no longer in the other House, but he is present as a Senator here to-day.
I suggest to the Senator that he should quote from his own speech of the 25th May.
I cannot have this cross-questioning between Senators. Every Senator will have an opportunity of expressing his views on the Bill.
Senator Farren should try to restrain himself.
It is surprising to find the Senator so solicitous about the Labour Party.
I do not think it is fair to anticipate what action another Party will take on any measure before the House.
We will not turn our coats as often as the Senator did.
I presume it is in order to quote from a statement made by a responsible member of the House. Speaking on the date I have mentioned, Senator Johnson said:
"Let me say here for the comfort of some of my friends, that so far as I and this Party are concerned, we are going to give the Treaty and the Constitution the fullest possible support and maintenance. We are going to maintain the Treaty and the Constitution. We are going to maintain the Constitution as well as the Treaty, and the safeguards for public liberty, for public expression and for political activities which the Constitution provides..."
——"the people in the Saorstát are supreme."
Hear, hear. That is the point.
the Senator continued:
"I have never doubted that within the constitution, based upon the Treaty, the people of Ireland, by their votes, are capable of governing this country in all domestic concerns 100 per cent. I agree emphatically with the words reported as having been uttered by Professor MacNeill, that we have here in fact in this country a Republican form of Government. I say, as I have very many times said, that rightly interpreted the Constitution and the Treaty ensure all that is valuable in the Republican form of Government. We have it stated in our Treaty and in our Constitution that all powers of government and all authority—legislative, executive and judicial—in Ireland are derived from the people of Ireland. We have it stated that the Executive is responsible to the Parliament. We also have it stated that Executive power is vested in the King, who, in this Constitution, is responsible to the Parliament, and the Parliament are responsible to the people. That is ensuring to the people of the country authority and power in a way which is complete and absolute."
That Constitution and that Treaty so lauded by Senator Johnson at the time, so described as ensuring full and absolute liberty to this State, is the Constitution and the Treaty now to be scrapped piecemeal. Senator Johnson stated at the time that the Labour Party were going to give "the fullest possible support and maintenance" to the Treaty and the Constitution. A decision on the part of the Labour Party to support this Bill would certainly be out of accord with the sentiments expressed in that quotation—on behalf of the Party in 1927. This Bill, and most of the other legislative measures introduced by the present Executive have been conceived in the war spirit. When I say that, I mean their contentious Bills. There are certain measures they introduced which were not contentious. The idea that this country can never be at peace or on friendly relations with Britain—that we must always show to the world the spectacle here of a nation ready for battle—I say the time for that kind of thing has ceased.
In the Treaty of 1921 we secured the power so lauded and so accurately described by Senator Johnson in the speech I have just quoted. On the basis of that Treaty I say that we can establish peaceful, friendly and honourable relations with Britain. I ask, is it unpatriotic to urge that to-day? Is it to be regarded as doing something that is going to injure the national status of this country to say that we cannot have these friendly relations? If it is accepted as permissible to believe in friendly and honourable relations between this State and Britain, then I say it is the paramount duty of the Executive Council of this State to try and secure an amicable settlement of the issue raised in this Bill lest perhaps the possibility of the growth of friendly relations between these two neighbouring States may be severely and disastrously jeopardised.
At any rate I stand here in support of the amendment. I stand here to challenge the President of the Executive Council to tell us why an effort has not been made to secure a friendly approach to a settlement on this matter. I ask him, if this Oath denounced by Senator Quirke to-day and by himself on previous occasions is so heinous and offensive, why is a citizen of this State who occupies the post of Governor-General subjected to take the two oaths I am about to read?: "I——do swear that I will be faithful and will bear true allegiance to King George V, his heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.""I —— do swear that I will well and truly serve His Majesty King George V in the office of Governor-General of the Irish Free State. So help me God."
These two oaths the present occupant of the office of Governor-General of the Free State has to take as a result of the direct action of the policy and activities of the present Government. I ask the Government how they are going to reconcile this kind of oath with their denunciations of the innocuous phraseology in the Oath which members of the Oireachtas have to take?
I do not wish to detain the House. My main object has been to rectify some of the inaccuracies in the statements already made and to try to present to the House what the real issue is that is behind this Bill. That issue is the question of the basis of State policy, and I submit that so far as that has been disclosed it is calculated to work infinite harm to this State. Senator Colonel Moore said that no good purpose was ever served by negotiations. The Senator forgets one thing that should be most evident to his mind. He forgets the negotiations that resulted in his occupying a position in this House: the negotiations that led to the Treaty of 1921.
Backed up by what?
By the intelligence, the commonsense and the valour of the men of this country.
And the rifles.
I am not sure whether the gallant Colonel of the Connaught Rangers was himself a fighting man at that time or not, but at any rate there was one evidence of negotiation. Fighting is necessarily a prelude, in some contingencies, to the bringing to an end a dispute, but fighting does not determine an issue. It is what follows after that determines what the result is going to be. The result of the negotiations of 1921 produced here the Treaty, this Oireachtas, this State and the Constitution which has been so lauded in the quotation that I have cited from the speech of Senator Johnson. I believe that that Treaty created a revolution in the relations between the two countries and for the first time for centuries created the basis by which there could be friendly relations and by which any further differences might be adjusted and settled by negotiation and in a friendly spirit. It is because I believe the Executive has departed from that conception of things, and departed with the definite purpose of wrecking not inadvertently but deliberately this State that I support the amendment and oppose the motion now before the House.
When I went into the Dáil in 1922 one of the first functions of the Provisional Parliament was to devise a Constitution. When the section dealing with the Second Chamber was under discussion I expressed the view I held at that time that I was against the establishment of a Second Chamber. Five years' experience in the Dáil, with a Government having an obedient and noncritical majority proved to me that it was possible for any such Government, at any future time, to pass through any kind of legislation it wished. I came to the conclusion after that experience that if there were no Second Chamber the danger to representative Government and particularly to democratic representative Government would be very great indeed. I held to that view for some time, but I have come to the conclusion that there is very little to be said for it now, in view of the experience of the last two or three years, and the way in which this House has refused to perform its supposed function of criticising impartially and fairly, warning the country, and making proposals to the Dáil for the amendment of legislation and generally acting, as it was supposed to act, as a revising Chamber—as was often said, a cooling Chamber—to prevent hasty and unconsidered legislation.
This House on very vital matters has abrogated that function, and now, as a final gesture, the House is asked to flout the definite and clear decision of the electorate within a month after the electorate has spoken. The amendment deals with a Bill which has once been before this House, a Bill which passed the Dáil without amendment, was brought to this House and was accorded a Second Reading, was amended in Committee, and sent back to the Dáil with amendments. The Dáil refused to pass these amendments, and in accordance with the terms of the Constitution, revised by Senator Milroy and the Party of which he was a member, the Bill was held in abeyance until after the general election. It now comes to us in the form in which it last left the Dáil, and the Seanad is asked to decline to consider further this Bill which has gone through these processes, until something takes place which the Seanad has no power over, no power of initiative, no power of control. The effect of that amendment, if passed, is to say to the country that no matter how emphatically the electors declare their will in any matter the Seanad is not going to pass it until it is forced. I wonder is that the kind of action that a responsible Second Chamber would take if it were aware of the meaning and implications of its conduct?
Those who have been familiar with British politics for a generation will recollect the agitation regarding the abolition of the House of Lords. I do not remember in all my reading ever coming across a speech in which the most obdurate die-hards asserted that, notwithstanding the decision of the electorate, the will of the House of Lords should prevail. That is what the amendment asks the Seanad to consent to.
Strange as it might seem, there has been a reversal of form within the last twelve months. When this Bill was under discussion in the Seanad a year ago last May, we had a number of speeches, and I propose to draw the attention of the Senators who uttered them, and the Seanad, as a whole, to some of the salient features of these speeches. Speaker after speaker emphasised, in support of the position that the majority of the House then held, that the Bill should not pass until it had received the consent of the people, or until the people had spoken. I take Senator Douglas first. Speaking in the Seanad on May 25, in cols. 695 and 696 of the Official Debates, he said:
When the Bill reaches Committee we should ask the Government to explain exactly what steps it will take to ascertain the true position; what steps it will take to see that the President's assurance is fulfilled —that the constitutional position of this country will not be altered without another election.
This will give ample time to ascertain the true position, whether at Ottawa or elsewhere, and there will be no possibility of the country finding itself outside the Commonwealth until it has been consulted on the question.
Then we come to Senator Milroy.
He is gone out.
The Senator was trying to decry the statement of the President regarding a mandate that the Government had at that time. He said:—
At the general election his Party was returned in a minority of nine. In the matter of first preferences his Party was faced with a majority of over 140,000 against them, and I ask what becomes of this overwhelming majority vote which he assured the Seanad he had on the last occasion he spoke here. What becomes of this unequivocal mandate that he has been telling the world about? He knows, and every man in his Party knows, and every man and woman in this House knows, and the Oireachtas knows, that there is no mandate for this Bill, and that this Bill has been brought before us and is being carried through the Oireachtas under false pretences.
Notice the need for consulting the country, the need for a mandate. It was not justifiable for the President to bring in such a Bill at that time, because the country had not given him a mandate. Having got a mandate, and having been re-elected, notwithstanding the advocacy of the Party to which Senator Milroy and Senator Counihan belong, and the country having spoken in the matter, they still repeat the advice that the Seanad should not be asked to pass this Bill. On the same day a more responsible Senator, Senator Samuel Brown, said:—
But the removal of the Oath or a mandate for its removal is not a mandate to lead the country out of the Commonwealth. Therefore, it is our duty to see that nothing will be done before a general election, that is to say, that nothing will be done which would have the effect of leading the country outside the Commonwealth of Nations.
If our Government, by friendly negotiation, can effect such an agreement, and I hope that they will be able to do so, all will be well. If, on the other hand, they decline negotiations or fail to get agreement the people at the next general election will know where they are.
Senator Brown is a very responsible Senator, and his words are always listened to with the greatest respect. May I now come to what Senator MacLoughlin said, on June 2 in column 866:—
The Dáil has decided to take the responsibility of passing this Bill. The Dáil can claim popular authority which the Seanad cannot claim. They are the direct representatives of the people. The majority in the Dáil claim that this issue for the removal of the Oath was put before the people at the election, and that there is a mandate for it. In my opinion the office of the Seanad is not to decide what mandate a Government elected by the people may claim. It is rather to draw attention to the dangers of ill-considered policies and legislation.
Senator Counihan, who, I am sorry to say, is not now present, speaking on June 2, column 904, said:—
To my mind the duty of the Seanad is very plain, and that is to hold up and delay hasty or ill-considered legislation. I am convinced that this is a Bill on which the Seanad should exercise its function of delay. Even if we concede that the Government contention is correct, and that they have a mandate for the Bill, considering its serious implications, I say it is the duty of the Seanad to hold it up, and to give the country another opportunity to reconsider its decision.
Senator Crosbie, speaking on June 8, column 968, said:—
I believe that we are here as a Second Chamber, and the purpose of a Second Chamber, whether you take ancient or modern instances, is to delay hasty legislation ... I am not convinced that there is a majority in favour of dispensing with the Oath, but, even if there were, I maintain it is our duty—considering the very serious issues that are involved—to delay the passing of this measure. That is our function in the Constitution. I rejoice that our power to hold up any measure is very limited indeed, but we can hold it up for a certain period.
Now, what we see from those quotations is that the Senators making those speeches conceived it to be the function of the Seanad to hold up hasty or ill-considered legislation. They thought it wise to treat that measure as hasty and ill-considered. They had not always exercised that function, but in this case they did, and they stated why they were doing it. They wanted the country to get an opportunity to declare its will upon the matter, and the country has declared its will. An election has been held. The Opposition had every opportunity to show the people the terrible consequences which they alleged might follow from the passing of this measure, and, despite that, the electors said "All right; we are behind you, and we return the Government that promoted this measure with a much larger number of supporters than ever they had before." And still the Seanad comes along and says: "We refuse to consider further this Bill" notwithstanding that the country has declared in favour of it.
Senator Milroy spoke of the issues that were involved in the passing of this measure. I am inclined to think, notwithstanding the serious nature of the issue that Senator Milroy says is involved—and I agree that it is a serious one—I am inclined to think that a still more serious issue is involved when the people, within a month after an election, is told by one House of its Legislature that no matter what it has said that House is not going to abide by its decision. That is the issue that is raised, the whole issue of representative government, and this House which is supposed to be in some measure democratic or associated with a democratic House—being elected by that House or by the Houses taken together—this House challenges the principle of representative democratic government. I say that that is a greater issue than the issue that Senator Milroy says is involved in the passing of this Bill.
I had not thought that it had been within my capacity to have stated a case, at any time in my political experience, so succinctly and clearly in favour of the Constitution and the Treaty that existed in September or August, 1927, as in the lines or phrases or sentences that were quoted by Senator Milroy to-day. I adhere to-day to the description I then gave of the Treaty and of the Constitution which existed in August, 1927. I would not have made the same speech a year afterwards, because certain changes in that Constitution had been passed in the meantime, very vital changes, changes which had altered the character of the Constitution and of the liberties and the power which the people of this country had obtained under the original Treaty and Constitution. Those changes removed some of the liberties and some of the authority that the original Constitution placed in the hands of the people. But when I am asked to support an amendment of this kind, which doubles and trebles the denial of the sovereign authority of the people that is contained in the Constitution Amendment Acts of 1927 and succeeding Amendments, then I am surprised at the audacity of those making such a request and still claiming to be apostles and advocates of representative government and democratic rule. The issue, I agree, is a serious one; but the issue that is raised by this amendment is whether this House is going to deliberately and defiantly flout the declared will of the people within a month or two of that declaration.
Not at all.
I have never varied in the view—and I am supported in this time after time by the members of the late Government, particularly those who were most concerned in the framing of the Constitution and its defence—never have I varied in the view that if the people of this country decided to change the Treaty and to change the Constitution, even by unilateral action, it was entitled to do so, and neither this House nor the Dáil has any right, after the country has had a fair opportunity to consider the consequences, to defy or hinder the will of the people having full expression in legislation and in governmental action.
I take it that those who are supporting this amendment realise all that it means. I do not suppose that they are concerned very much with the consequences, the inevitable consequences as I think, to a second Chamber when that Chamber deliberately and defiantly, as I have said, flouts the will of the people; but from the point of view of future constitutional government in this country I think it is a pity that the almost inevitable consequences of irresponsible action, such as this which is now put up to us, are that future Parliamentary government of this country will be government by one Chamber. It strikes me that if a House of this nature is going to take this kind of action, refusing to consider further—because that is the phraseology—refusing to consider further this Bill, then, I say, that nothing could be more defiant. I could have understood the majority here—what one naturally would expect to be a majority here—if it said on the final stage of the Bill: "Well, to show our disapproval, we formally record ourselves against it." I could have understood that, but when they actually ask the House to pass a resolution saying that the House shall not further consider this, then, I say, that is an action which no responsible Chamber of this kind ought to be asked to approve.
I agree with Senator Douglas that this is not a time for making long speeches on this particular question. It was discussed in all its aspects last year and everybody had an ample opportunity of putting forward their views on it. Were it not for the remarks of some Senators here to-day I would not feel obliged to speak on this motion to-day. Senator Milroy seems to think that he was sent on this earth specially for the purpose of lecturing the Labour Party. On almost every occasion on which he gets up to speak here he reads out a lecture to them.
They need it!
Well, they may need it, but not from Senator Milroy. On the last occasion last year, on 25th May, when Senator Milroy spoke here for, I think, an hour and three-quarters, on this particular matter——
Well, two hours. On that occasion he read a tremendous lecture to the Labour Party, and the burden of his song was that a certain member of that Party had gone up for election and that he was at the bottom of the poll because the people had decided that they would turn him down because he was in support of the removal of the Oath. Then Senator Milroy talked about the Seven Wise Men and the decision which they had given. I want to say to Senator Milroy that the Seven Wise Men went to the wise people of the country and the wise people of the country gave them a slight increase and sent them back here, and that is more than can be said for Senator Milroy's Party. The people did not consider that the Party the Senator belonged to were wise enough to represent them in the Oireachtas. So that the less we hear of lectures to the Labour Party from Senator Milroy the better. Of all people to criticise the Labour Party. Senator Milroy should be the last.
He prates about patriotism and talks about upholding the State—the man who tried to scuttle the State at its worst period.
That statement is absolutely untrue and I ask for its immediate withdrawal.
I will not withdraw it. I say that he was a member of the Party to which he now belongs and that he and some of his colleagues tried to scuttle the State, and when they thought the ship was sinking they deserted it.
That is absolutely untrue.
Senator Milroy says that you are not accurate, Senator. If you make a statement it should be accurate.
The statement I made is on the records of the House and that is that Senator Milroy was a member of the Party to which he now belongs and that he left that Party when the ship of State, in my opinion, was at its most critical period in its voyage.
That is not the charge he made. The charge he made was that I, at a critical moment, tried to scuttle the State. That is absolutely untrue, I could use a shorter word for it, but I refrain.
I withdraw "scuttle" and say that he deserted the ship.
Never! That is what the Labour Party are doing now— joining the wreckers.
I do not like these recriminations and I am getting tired of the abuse that Senator Milroy and certain other people are continually pouring on the Labour Party, and as far as I am concerned I will have no more of it. Senator Milroy and Senator Counihan based their case on this: that the House, when this Bill was before it on the last occasion, should hold up the Bill until they got into negotiation with the British Government, and they refused to pass the Bill until that was done. Senator Counihan and Senator Milroy put questions to the President asking him what he had done in the matter and whether he had consulted the British Government. It is not for me to anticipate the President's reply, but I would say that the President has consulted the sovereign people of this country on this matter since it was before this House previously and that the sovereign people of this country, in no uncertain manner, have given him the answer for which he appealed. He has been returned to power with the largest individual Party that ever was sent into the Oireachtas in the history of the State. I think that is a sufficient answer as to whether the President had consulted with anybody or not.
I join with Senator Johnson in saying, and I think I said it last year, and I said it when this question was up a week ago, that on these high political questions it is not the function of this House or this Assembly to defy the will of the people. I have been listening for a long time to the talk about the will of the people. I always believed in supporting the will of the people. Did the people who prated most about the will of the people now refuse to accept the decision of the people on this matter? Since 1922 we have been listening to the incessant claim that the will of the people must prevail. No one said that more vehemently than Senator Milroy.
And I repeat it now.
Does Senator Milroy deny that the will of the people upon this matter has been given in an unanswerable manner. Have they not decided that the Oath must go? They elected the Fianna Fáil Party with the greatest individual majority ever secured by any Party in the Oireachtas, and upon this particular issue does the Senator state that this House should refuse to accept the will of the people?
Does Senator Farren believe that the result of the last election means the rejection of the Treaty?
I say that the last election decided that the Oath in the Constitution must go.
That the Treaty must go?
If you want to argue about the Treaty I am quite prepared to argue it. In dealing with this matter last year I said that the Treaty was broken, not by the Irish people, but by the British people. Article 12 of the Treaty was violated by the British people. The rights of the people of this country were flinched from them by the violation of that article. I said that last year, and I repeat it to-day. What I say emphatically is that there is no doubt about the will of the people or the removal of the Oath. The people have spoken, and it is the function of this House to put into operation the will of the people. I said last year, speaking on this matter, that the first division on a vital matter, on this very question was the first step taken by the House towards suicide, and now they are about to finish that step. The passing of this amendment, in my opinion, is sufficient for the abolition of this House. The adoption of that amendment would show that the House does not desire to carry out the intentions of the people but to impede in every way the progress of the people in the work of the emancipation of this country and its complete freedom.
After listening to the speech of Senator Johnson, which I would describe as a speech as sound and unanswerable as ever I heard in this or any other assembly, I am wondering whether the commonsense members of the Seanad, who, hitherto, were in favour of this amendment, will now bow to the inevitable and realise that if the Oath is not dead it is at least in a critical state and that the oxygen which may be scientifically administered even by Senator Milroy is not going to revive it. In my opinion an amendment such as this makes, if it were possible to do so, the memory of the Oath more obnoxious still to the vast majority of the Irish people. I am not going to be as severe, as some other Senators have been, upon my friend Senator Wilson because I know Senator Wilson since he was a child and I knew his father before him. I am certain, if you could get to the bottom of Senator Wilson's heart, you would find that if anything he was on our side. Senator Wilson in anything he touches always has the spice of sincerity, sometimes adorned with a sense of the pastoral. We must all admire the enthusiastic courage he displayed in bringing forward this amendment, even running the risk of being turned down by some of his own colleagues as has been done in the past. It is a great consolation to Senator Wilson to-day I am sure to know that Senator Crosbie has not deserted him yet.
This amendment asks the Seanad to do something, and it just occurred to me to ask who are the Seanad? A body of sensible men, no doubt. It has occurred to me to ask what are the qualifications before a man becomes a Senator. I am now speaking under correction. He must have given some signal service to his country or have done some singular act on behalf of national principles, but even with that, and every Senator knows this as well as I do, if the Seanad went to the people to elect them to a representative position very few Senators here now would be returned.
I wonder. And then this is the body we are told with the brazenness of brass, as Senator Johnson put it, that is trying to counteract the will of the Irish people clearly expressed on two occasions. We are to set ourselves up upon a pinnacle and we are to treat with contempt the decision of the people and the decision of the Dáil, which passed this Bill by a vote of 75 to 49. Well "my dear friends and fellow countrymen," as we used to say on the hillsides years ago, "it won't do." As I said before, Senators ought to realise before it is too late, even for their own sakes, that the Oath is dead and damned—it is as dead as Methuselah's cat. All the letter-writing in the Press will not do. You may get all the advice you like from Brazil, but notwithstanding all that you will have to realise that the Seanad will not be allowed to treat with contempt the will of the Irish people.
The Oath is dead; the people is supreme, but the people is not always right. At least the people does not always vote right. I support Senator Wilson's amendment to-day, although I have no love for the Oath, and I do not know anyone in the Seanad who has. It is better to be honest about these things. The whole propaganda from 1922, about the Oath, until to-day, has been dishonest from beginning to end. The Treaty was passed and accepted by a majority of the people of this country. There were many arguments used by the Opposition at the time against it, but the argument that appealed to the people and made the civil war possible was the Oath. The Fianna Fáil Party said they could not go in to our Parliament while the Oath was there. That was in 1922. The civil war went on and many of the best men and women on both sides—God rest their souls—went down in that civil war. Many years afterwards, in 1927, the Fianna Fáil Party, that would not take the Oath in 1922, came into the Dáil and took that Oath. That is the reason why I say that all this propaganda about the Oath is dishonest. They talked about the Oath all the time, and now that they are in power they must get rid of it, in order to justify what they have been saying all these years. I think the honourable thing to do is to declare openly that we are not a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and to go for the solid rock of the Republic. Personally, I am a Republican. I am a Republican in the very same spirit as the men of Easter Week were Republicans. They declared a Republic not because they thought it was the best form of government for this country, but in order to let the people of America and France and the people all over the world see that they desired freedom complete, without interference from England. They realised that it was not for them or any party—Cumann na nGaedheal or Fianna Fáil—to declare what form of government we should have in this country. That was a question for the Irish people themselves.
The Irish people have since declared for Saorstát Eireann—the Irish Free State. Instead of nibbling at the Treaty, which annoys everybody on both sides, the decent thing for Fianna Fáil to do to-day would be to say: "We want a Republic." There is nothing in Irish or English law to prevent us claiming a Republic for the Twenty-six Counties. The trouble is the Six Counties. The Province of Ulster consists of nine counties. We lost six so that you can call Ulster two-thirds of a province. The Six Counties is the trouble, and the real trouble, and instead of talking about oaths and things of that kind, that do not matter, the thing that concerns us all is to do away with partition. Let us get the people unanimous under one form of Government and then you can call it what you like, so long as you get it established. I want to make this quite clear. If there is a Republic declared I do not want a Republic on the Russian or the Mexican system. I want a real Irish Republic, a Republic for all the people of Ireland, whether they be Catholic or Protestant or whatever else they may be so long as they recognise there is a God. I have no use for people who do not recognise God, but to anybody who recognises that there is a God we must hold out the hand of friendship. What we want in this country, call it Republic or Free State or anything else, is to unite all our countrymen whether they be Catholic or Protestant just as Thomas Davis said:
"Oh, start not Irish born man
If you're to Ireland true
We heed not creed, nor race nor clan
We've hearts and hands for you."
Much as I would like a Republic, the unity of Ireland is far dearer to me. Even that would be preferable to me under the British Commonwealth of Nations with the Oath included. Senator Quirke or Senator Colonel Moore can call me an Imperialist if they like and send out that message this evening from Moydrum, from Malin Head to Cape Clear. We want an Ireland free, from the centre to the sea, and there is no use in this continual nibbling. We accepted the Treaty as something solid to stand on and to work on. The people on the opposite benches called it the stepping stone. I have stood on the stepping stone and I have found it pretty solid but I have yet to see the solid rock of the Republic. We are, I think, as far as ever from it, but I think we should end this bickering under which you have one man calling another an Imperialist and another calling him a traitor. We will never get nearer the Republic in that way. The unity of the Irish nation is the object which we should all seek to achieve.
I have only a very few words to say. Surely we are not bringing any discredit on ourselves by taking the action suggested in Senator Wilson's amendment. An extra two months will not make any difference to us and, after all, there is a principle involved. There are such things as minorities in all States and, further, majorities are not always right. If a minority have a conviction they have a perfect right to give expression to it. Because a small majority may say one thing, that is no reason why one should turn over and follow them blindly. There is a substantial minority in this country who feel very strongly on the whole policy of the Government in regard to the Oath, and there are two points of view to be considered. First of all, they feel personally an allegiance to the Commonwealth and they are not ashamed to say so. Senator Quirke would seem to imply that it is a treacherous thing to feel loyalty to the Commonwealth and to the King, who is the recognised head of the Commonwealth, the King whom our Governor-General represents. The minority feel that loyalty in their hearts and that as long as they can they should continue to protest against this policy. They know that when the Oath is gone, it will not make very much difference to them, but they still have that feeling. We should like to be assured, furthermore, that the removal of the Oath will do anything to bring those who are in opposition to the Government to alter their views. We feel also that the honour of the country is involved and as long as we can protest against this action we shall protest. We feel that this whole action on the question of the Oath has brought discredit and dishonour to the country in the eyes of the nations of the world.
I do not think it necessary for me to say much on this question. We had many of the points that were dealt with heretofore touched on here to-day, and the only thing that remains is that I should repeat that there is no desire on the part of the Executive Council in any way to embitter the relations between the two countries. Far from it, but we have a duty to see that our rights as we understand them, the rights of the Irish people as we understand them, are preserved. We did not approach this matter by way of negotiation. I think I indicated, if not in the Seanad, at least in the Dáil, that we did not approach this matter by way of negotiation for two reasons. The British Government had, on other occasions, tried to insist that the Treaty bound us where we were in 1921. That was not the opinion of those who accepted the Treaty. Accepting responsibility under the circumstances under which we accepted it, we felt it our duty to see that the view, which we believed those who accepted the Treaty could consistently hold, was upheld by us and no argument I have heard during the course of the debates has in the slightest degree weakened my view but that, in the strictest interpretation of the Treaty, the action which we propose to take can be taken. I argued the position at length and supported that argument by the views of learned legal authorities. Again, I repeat I did not hear in the course of these debates, whether in the Dáil or in the Seanad, a single argument which appeared to me in the slightest to weaken the position that was held by us and our legal advisers in the matter.
It is suggested that we are breaking the Treaty. Our position is that we are not. It is suggested that we are taking unilateral action. Our contention is that we are acting strictly in accordance with the Treaty. You may ask what remedy has the British Government then. Suppose that they hold strongly and believe that we are violating the Treaty, how is the matter to be settled? There is a Court of Permanent International Justice. That is what it is there for, in case questions of this kind arise between two peoples. If, as Senator Milroy suggests, this is an international instrument between two peoples, when there is a violation of the Treaty on our part, the matter can be tried in that manner. That is the only remedy I can see. As far as we are concerned, we are not going to accept the position that this is a matter in which we are compelled to consult the British Government. We feel that the change we propose to make is well within our rights.
The view that was held by those who passed the Treaty was put before the people at the election. Nobody can say that this matter has not been debated up and down the country and that everybody is not fully aware of everything involved in this step. It has gone before the country under circumstances which have been indicated by Senator Johnson, and this House, by its attitude, proposes to thwart the decision of the people and to say they are superior to the people. That, of course, too, as Senator Johnson pointed out, ends all question of democratic government. There must be some final authority. I have never at any time denied that the people of this country must be the final judges in matters of this sort, in fact in any matters concerning their own welfare. I have been all the time supporting that view. Certain Senators seem to suggest that that has not been the case. I say I was once elected as an executive to defend a State and I defended that State to the last. That was my attitude. We are here now representing the Executive Council, the Government and the majority of the people. We put this Bill in a constitutional way before the Seanad for its final acceptance. If the Seanad refuses to accept it, after the passage of another resolution by the Dáil it becomes law under the Constitution, whether the Seanad wills it or not. We are not going to change our attitude with regard to the Bill.
I should welcome, and I have at all times welcomed, any evidence from the British Government that they wished to be on friendly relations with our people and that they were determined to put the relations between the peoples of these two countries on a really secure foundation. I opposed the Treaty because I believed the Treaty did not do this, and the fact that we have all these tests at the present time is proof that the Treaty did not. If, from our present position, we are able to put the relations between the two countries on a finally sound basis, then and then only will the Treaty be justified.
If there is ever a justification of the Treaty as being the basis for finally establishing good relations between the British and the Irish people, it will be when we have succeeded from our present position in securing these good relations. I believe we are going the only way about securing them in insisting on the rights of the Irish people, because as long as these rights are denied there cannot be proper friendly relations between the two peoples. Our people have a right to be free and the British have no right whatever to interfere with their freedom. Any claims they had imposed through the Treaty on the Irish people were imposed by force and until these impositions are removed, altogether or by piecemeal, it is vain for me or for Senators or any representatives of the people here to think that there can be final and lasting friendly relations between the two peoples. Friendly relations can only be got in freedom, in co-operation, based on each Party believing that it is in its interest to co-operate and to work together. It is our view that we are within our rights. We have brought this matter before the Dáil and had this resolution passed, and we now ask the Seanad to pass the motion and, finally, to pass the Bill.
I think everybody will agree that the goodwill of our neighbours is essential to the well-being of this State. I hope that after the 60 days have elapsed and the Bill will have become law, and the freedom of this country has then been established, we shall at all events remember that our people at the present time are undergoing privation, that that particular state of affairs, brought about by disagreements, will be ended and that the President of the Executive Council will then be in a position to ameliorate the lot of the people over whom he is now placed to govern.
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- Barniville, Dr. Henry L.
- Bigger, Sir Edward Coey.
- Browne, Miss Kathleen.
- Costello, Mrs.
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- Crosbie, George.
- Desart, The Countess of.
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- Jameson, Right Hon. Andrew.
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- Milroy, Seán.
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- Staines, Michael.
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- Cummins, William.
- Dowdall, J.C.
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- Moore, Colonel.
- O'Neill, L.
- Quirke, William.
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