Dáil Eireann Loans and Funds (Amendment) Bill, 1933—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The long discussion in the Dáil has probably obscured the real issues involved by this Bill. It would seem to me that I might best help the Seanad to give fair consideration to the measure if I were briefly to recount the circumstances which have compelled the Government to introduce it at this stage. The Bill will enable the Government of the Irish Free State to honour obligations contracted in the name of the Irish people over 13 years ago when Dáil Eireann—the first Dáil of the Irish Republic—adopted this Resolution, moved by the then Minister for Finance, the late General Michael Collins:

"It is decreed that an additional sum of 23,750,000 dollars may be issued for subscription to the Loan of the Government of the Irish Republic in the United States of America, thus increasing the total amount for issue in that country to 25,000,000 dollars."

Armed with the authority conferred by him by that Resolution, the present President of the Executive Council, Mr. de Valera, then President of the Irish Republic, raised in the United States of America two loans. The first, which was issued on January 21, 1920, attracted over 275,000 subscribers and yielded a sum of 5,123,640 dollars, which, at the rate of exchange prevailing at that time, was roughly equivalent to £1,600,000 sterling. The second issue, which was launched on 15th November, 1921 and which only remained open for approximately a fortnight, attracted in that period subscribers to the number of 32,842 and yielded a sum of 622,730 dollars, or approximately £190,000 sterling. In the process of raising these loans, Mr. de Valera issued the following personal receipt to subscribers:

"I, Eamon de Valera, President of the elected Government of the Republic of Ireland, acting in the name of, and by the authority of, the elected representatives of the Irish nation, issue this certificate in acknowledgment of your subscription of 100 dollars to the First National Loan of the Republic of Ireland. This certificate is not negotiable, but it is exchangeable if presented at the Treasury of the Republic of Ireland one month after the international recognition of the said Republic for a 100 dollars gold bond of the Republic of Ireland, said bond to bear interest at 5 per cent. per annum from the first day of the seventh month after the freeing of the territory of the Republic of Ireland from Britain's military control and said bond to be redeemable at par within one year thereafter."

The date of that was January 21, 1920. The first point to which I should like to call the attention of the Seanad is that this bond was issued and this receipt was issued in the name of and by the authority of the elected repre sentatives of the Irish nation. It seems to me that we who, while we are not members of the Government or Legislature of the Irish Republic, nevertheless claim to be—and rightfully claim to be representatives of the Irish nation in so far as we represent by far the greater part of the Irish nation here in Ireland, are bound to accept and to honour the obligation which was contracted in our name with the people of the United States of America in the years 1920 and 1921. Statements which I shall now place before you will indicate that that is not a new attitude, that that is not an attitude freshly taken up by the Government of the Irish Free State or by its predecessor.

During the tenure of the Provisional Parliament, on the 9th October, 1922, this Parliamentary question was asked by Deputy De Roiste:

"To ask the Minister for Finance if, and when, it is proposed to redeem the Dáil loan of 1919, so that persons holding bonds of that loan may be enabled to convert them into cash."

This was the reply given to that question by Mr. Cosgrave, then President and Minister for Finance in the Provisional Government and subsequently Minister for Finance and President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State:

"This matter has been under consideration, and it is intended to carry out the terms of the undertaking as mentioned in the prospectus of the loan. In this connection I would draw attention to the reply given by the late General Collins to a similar question asked by the late Mr. Boland. Mr. Boland asked, in the event of that body being set up, would they assume the obligations contracted in the name of the Republic and the pledges given in the Republic's name when they started to raise money. Mr. Collins replied: I will do my best to see—and if it is not done I will regard the Treaty as being broken—that every person who subscribed one pound to the loan is repaid. Mr. Boland replied that he was happy to hear that."

I do not know whether it is necessary for me to emphasise the significance of that statement. This question put by the late Harry Boland and answered by the late Michael Collins was put at a time when the Second Dáil was still regarded and recognised by both of them as being the legitimate Government of the Republic. It was before the Provisional Parliament or the Oireachtas, Dáil Eireann, had come into being and the significance of it is this: that at the earliest possible moment, those who were responsible for the foundation of this State, assumed the obligation which had been contracted in the name of the Irish Republic by Eamon de Valera and the representatives of the Irish Republic in raising the loans of January, 1920, and November, 1921. In August of 1922 proceedings were started in the New York Courts by the Irish Free State and by the Provisional Government and others against the Guarantee Safe Deposit Company and others who held the fund raised on the authority which I have stated.

Possibly, before I go further, and leave this period, it might not be inadvisable to advert to the position held by Mr. de Valera in 1920. Statements that he was then President of the Irish Republic have been challenged in the other House. The purpose, I think, of the challenge is to show that possibly in issuing these bonds and undertaking these obligations, in the name of the elected representatives of the Irish Nation, he was actingultra vires and was exceeding the powers that had been entrusted to him. Here, at any rate, is a document, which is a copy of the Trust Deed under which Mr. de Valera was appointed President. This document was signed by the late Arthur Griffith, who was then Acting-President, in these terms:

Signed, sealed, and delivered by Arthur Griffith, Acting-President, for and on behalf of Eamon de Valera, President of the Irish Republic, this twenty-fifth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and nineteen.

That signature was witnessed by Diarmuid O'Hegarty. The document appointing Mr. de Valera Trustee is signed, sealed and delivered also by "Michael Collins, Minister for Finance, this twenty-fifth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and ninteen." The witness in this case also is Diarmuid O'Hegarty.

It will be remembered that during the period when he was in America, a certain difference of opinion arose there as to whether he was properly entitled to represent the Irish people, to act for them and to assume responsibility for the prosecution of their cause. In order to show that in everything he did in regard to this Loan, Mr. de Valera had the full and unanimous support of the other members of the Government remaining in Ireland, and of the Dáil Eireann, which elected him President of the Republic, I propose to put on record a letter written by the late Arthur Griffith to certain people in America on the 23rd of June, 1920. The letter is as follows:—

"Gentlemen,

"The British propaganda is circulating through the Press in this country and abroad, stories of attacks being made at present by prominent citizens of America of Irish blood on the authority and credit of the President of the Irish Republic.

"The object of the enemy is to strengthen its hands for the reconquest of Ireland by the overthrow of the Republic of Ireland now, in law and in fact, established.

"President de Valera is in the United States vested with the full authority of the Cabinet and Congress of Ireland to secure explicit recognition by the Government of the United States for the Irish Republic. In such circumstances, any word or action which might tend to discredit his office or his mission constitutes an affront and an injury to the Irish Republic. Bitter indignation exists in Ireland at the moment over the reports of these attacks on the Irish President. Public expression of that indignation I am seeking to avoid. I therefore, write personally to appeal to you, gentlemen, to give your loyal support to our President in his great work. Men and women are struggling, sacrificing and suffering day by day in Ireland, with the profound heroism of the early Christian martyrs. I am sure I will not in vain ask men such as you to make a lesser sacrifice, and whatever causes of friction may exist, not to permit them further to interfere with loyal support of our President in his work of securing explicit recognition of the Government of Ireland from the Government of the United States.

Signed: Arthur Griffith,

Vice-President."

I think I have clearly established the authority of the then President of the Republic to raise this Loan in the name of the Irish people and on the authority of the then elected representatives of the Irish nation. I was saying that the obligations which he contracted had been immediately taken over by those members of Dáil Eireann who supported the Treaty, and by those members of the Provisional Government which was established in consequence of the Treaty, and by the Oireachtas of Saorstát Eireann which came into being on the basis of the Treaty. In August of 1922, proceedings, I have said, were started in the New York Courts against Mr. de Valera and other people. During the course of these proceedings, the Dáil Eireann (Loans and Funds) Bill of 1924 was introduced and, in the course of the debate on this Bill, Mr. Blythe said on 13th December, 1923:—

"There were two loans issued in America, one on the 1st January, 1921, which realised 5,236,955 dollars. The second American Loan was issued in November, 1921 and it, of course, had hardly got started when the Treaty came. That loan realised 622, 720 dollars. The total raised in America, therefore, was 5,859,675 dollars. There is at present held up in America, and the subject of litigation, 2,300,000 odd dollars. There are provisions in connection with the redemption of the American Loans, which correspond roughly to the requirements of the American prospectus. That is, stock certificates will be issued to those who have subscribed to the loans. Interest will accrue on these stock certificates, and they can be redeemed either at par, or they can be purchased in the market."

Mr. Dolan, who was subsequently Parliamentary Secretary, I think, to the Minister for Industry and Commerce in the Government of 1927, intervened and said:—

"I wish to draw the Minister's attention to sub-section (2) of Section 6, and I hope that he will consider an amendment in reference to it on the next stage. The sub-section states: ‘Provided that the Minister may postpone the issue of stock certificates under this section until he is satisfied that all moneys subscribed to the External Loans, or either of them, and not duly accounted for have (so far as the same are recoverable) been paid into the Exchequer.' My reason in drawing attention to this sub-section is that there might be a difficulty, owing to the way the Loan was handled in America, and owing to the confusion that existed since the loans were subscribed. I think the national credit comes in here, and I am convinced that it is due to the Irish nation to recognise our liability to the people who subscribed this money regardless of how it was handled afterwards. The money was subscribed, and I claim that any receipt held in America or abroad from any official acting under Dáil Eireann should be recognised, and that a fresh stock certificate according to the terms of this section should be issued against that receipt."

Those statements were made by Mr. Blythe, who was Minister for Finance, and Mr. Dolan, who was a member of the Dáil, and, as I have indicated, subsequently a Parliamentary Secre-in the Cumann na nGaedheal Government on 13th December, 1923. The litigation in America dragged on and, ultimately, on May 7th, 1927, the decision of Judge Peters of the Supreme Court of New York was given that the Irish Free State was not entitled to the balance of the loans and, on 17th June, the appointment of Receivers to distribute the balance of the loans available in America was made by the Supreme Court of New York. On June 30th, 1927, more than six weeks after Judge Peters had given his decision, Senator Johnson, who was then a member of Dáil Eireann, asked this question of the then Minister for Finance, Mr. Blythe:

"Perhaps while the Minister is dealing with the question of accounting, he might tell the House what the position is regarding the American judgment in the matter of the American Loans. I think there was a statement made that the position was under consideration. It is well to know whether that consideration has come to fruition, and whether it is opportune to make any statement to the House."

Mr. Blythe replied:—

"With regard to the American Loans, we have decided not to bring any appeal. Such money as was held in America and was in question in the litigation is being returned to the subscribers. To that extent our responsibility is lessened except for the question of expense that may be involved. It is, so far as we are concerned, the same as if we were getting the money, financially, at any rate. I have always taken the line, no matter what courts outside may say, that we are the successors of the First Dáil. We are bound to repay that money and we are certainly bound to repay the portion that came over here and was used. The full text of the American judgment has recently been received in my Department, but I have not had an opportunity of going into it. It was sufficiently examined, however, to convince us that there was no case for litigating further in the matter."

That was the position on 30th June, 1927. The question of the American Loans and what the attitude of the Executive Council of Saorstát Eireann was going to be to the American Loans was then taken up officially by the American Minister in this country and, according to copies of correspondence which took place between the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America in Dublin and the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. McGilligan, which was forwarded to me from America towards the end of 1932, with a request that the undertakings given by Mr. McGilligan should now be honoured, a pledge was given by Mr. McGilligan to the same effect as that contained in Mr. Blythe's announcement. I think it would be advisable that this correspondence should be on record here in the report of the proceedings of the Seanad and, accordingly, I propose to read it. The United States Minister wrote this letter from Dublin on the 28th July, 1928:

The Honourable The Secretary of State, Washington.

Sir,—I have the honour to refer to the Department's instruction No. 26, dated April 16, 1928, directing the Legation to address a formal communication to the Government of the Irish Free State on the subject of the so-called Irish Republic Loans floated in the United States in an endeavour to ascertain the official attitude of the Government towards the American subscribers to these loans.

Upon receipt of this instruction the Legation duly forwarded a note to the Minister for External Affairs and I now beg to transmit herewith a copy in triplicate of the Minister's reply.

I have the honour to be, sir,

Your obedient servant,

F.A. STERLING.

This is the reply which was transmitted in triplicate to the Honourable the Secretary of State, Washington. It issued from the Department of External Affairs, the Irish Free State, and is dated 26th July, 1928. It is as follows:—

"Excellency,

"I have the honour to refer to your Excellency's note, No. 63 of the 1st May, 1928, inquiring as to the attitude of my Government towards the American subscribers to the Dáil Eireann External Loans, 1920-21. The Government of the Irish Free State has repeatedly acknowledged its obligation to repay the bondholders of the External Loans and this view has not been modified as a result of the decision given by the New York Supreme Court. The question at issue is accordingly only one of the proper time and machinery to be adopted for the repayment of the loans. My Government is satisfied that no action can be taken until the Receivers in New York have distributed the assets they hold. As you are aware, after examining the claims lodged with them, the Receivers must report to the Court, giving a list of the claims they allow and the amount of the assets available to meet them, when an Order for the distribution will be made. It will then be known what proportion of the bondholders are seeking repayment and to what extent their claims are being met by the Receivers. As regards the machinery, a difficulty arises from the method prescribed in the Dáil Loans and Funds Act for the calculation of interest, as the incomplete data in existence will not, in the opinion of the Minister for Finance, allow him to ascertain the individual dates of subscriptions in many cases. The Minister for Finance contemplates that a short Bill will be necessary to amend the Dáil Loans and Funds Act——"

This is the Bill

"to enable the procedure adopted in the case of the Internal Loans to be followed in redeeming the External Loans. Consideration will also have to be given to the question of altering the procedure prescribed by the Act in regard to the intermediate issue of stock to be given to bondholders in exchange for their bonds.

"Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurance of my highest consideration.

"(Sgd) P. McGILLIGAN."

That was the definite and explicit pledge given by the Minister for External Affairs of a Cumann na nGaedheal administration from 1927 to 1931 to the representative of the Government of the United States of America, in this country, and communicated by him to the Secretary of State in Washington. I think that if there was nothing else on record than that, the Oireachtas would be bound to pass this Bill, certainly, if not without discussion, at least without the unseemly discussion that disgraced the proceedings in the other House.

But we have something more than the official statements. On July 2nd, 1929, more than eight months afterwards, an interview, of which I have a cutting, appeared in the issue of theNew York Sun. It is as follows:—

"‘American holders of Irish Republican Bonds issued in the United States before the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1922 will be paid in full.' Ernest Blythe, Irish Free State Minister of Finance, told the United Press"

—that is a Press agency in America with a considerable number of newspaper affiliations—

"in an exclusive interview. Much interest was aroused in the Free State by recent despatches from New York regarding the final refunds on the bonds. A number of persons now in Ireland, chiefly returned Irish-Americans, own the bonds, but most of them have made no claim for a refund and they have been holding them merely as souvenirs under the impression that the script cannot now be converted into cash.

"Blythe said they were mistaken in such a belief and added that he wished to make it clear that if any persons in the United States also hold the bonds as souvenirs they will be able to convert them into cash eventually.

"‘It is the settled policy,' Blythe said, ‘of the Free State Government, that the American subscribers to the Dáil Eireann shall be paid not merely 60 cents on the dollar, but to the full extent of the dollar.'

"The Free State Government is now awaiting the completion of the Receiver's task in the American Courts. When the American Courts certify that all the funds held by the court have been refunded, on whatever percentage basis may be arrived at, the Free State Ministry of Finance proposes to establish machinery in New York to make good to all the subscribers the balance of the sum subscribed.

"It will be necessary, of course, Mr. Blythe pointed out, for officials of the Free State to make a thorough examination of all accounts and records held by the American Courts, and be supplied with a list of the names of all subscribers, together with the amount of their subscriptions and the amount of refunds already made.

"‘That will take some time,' Blythe said, ‘but once it has been checked, the Free State Government will proceed immediately to establish connection with one of the big New York banking houses which, with the co-operation of the Dublin Government, will be asked to settle all the claims in full.'"

That interview, it will be noted, purports to have been given on 2nd July, 1929. Later in the same year, on 14th October, 1929, the then Minister for Defence, Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald, was in the United States and he wrote from New York in these terms:

"The other matter which one comes across constantly here is the repayment of the bonds. I have informed everybody I met that it is definitely the intention of the Government to accept full responsibility for the repayment of the bonds, and I explained that, to the best of my knowledge, the reason for the delay in doing so was the law actions and the necessity to have full information of distribution of the funds here to bondholders. I have said that when that distribution has taken place and we know exactly what percentage each individual subscriber has received back from the Bondholders' Trust, through the Bondholders' Trustees, the Government would proceed to pay whatever the difference might be between the sum received by those bondholders and the amounts subscribed by them plus interest over a certain period from a certain date."

That brings us down to the end of 1929. Let it be noted that the undertaking which up to this stage had been given without qualification and without reserve, officially and unofficially, through diplomatic channels, in newspaper interviews, by word of mouth, by responsible Ministers, was that the moment that the receivers had discharged their task and received their discharge from the American courts every subscriber would be repaid in full. Then a sudden silence, as to their future course of action in regard to this repayment seemed to have overshadowed our predecessors; because in July, 1929, in a communication which I shall read to the Seanad in a few minutes, not even the United States Minister in Dublin could get a repetition of those undertakings previously given so freely, and, as I have said, without qualification by our predecessors. And why? Because on the 30th January, 1930, an appeal was issued for the assignment of bonds to finance a daily newspaper in Ireland. In the appeal, which was just issued, the greatest care was taken to indicate to those who might be the recipients of it that the bonds which were asked to be assigned, were articles of value. In the course of one of these letters the following phrase was used by Mr. Frank P. Walsh, who was Chairman of the American Committee which had charge of this matter:—

"Many who like yourself are entitled to share in the distribution of the moneys now held by the Receivers for the Republic of Ireland Loans, pursuant to the judgment of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, entered on June 7, 1927,"

and so on and so on. In fact, so fully were precautions taken to ensure that nobody would part with his title to any of these bonds, except with the full knowledge that he was parting with an article of value, that when the matter was officially examined by the then President of the Executive Council, he was advised that the repayment by the American receivers of 58 per cent. of the face value of these bonds shall receive so much publicity that the holders cannot be regarded as being unaware of the value of the script. Consequently if they transferred their bonds to Mr. de Valera they are doing so with their eyes open so far as the question of parting with that valuable consideration is concerned.

Who said that?

The Secretary to the Executive Council of the time, Mr. Diarmuid O'Hegarty.

Has the Minister got the document?

I say he was advised to that effect.

That is your interpretation of it.

Now I do not know whether at this stage it would be worth while considering whether the Executive Council, or any Government of the Irish Free State, would be entitled, once a person has become a bondholder and had subscribed to a loan for the redemption of which this State has accepted full and complete responsibility to demand that the original subscribers to this loan should render an account to them as to the manner in which they disposed of it afterwards. I think that would be very foolish and very wrong. I think that if we were to take up that attitude we should do irreparable damage to the credit of this State and would make it impossible for us to raise money at any time from the general public. Because what is the principle we would be selling up? That we have been borrowing money from certain individuals and giving these individuals pledges and promises and claims upon the Exchequer, and the finances of this State, but that when the moment came to meet and honour these claims we say: "we will not repay you what we owe, because you have dealt with your claim upon us, in a manner which we do not like, and even if we did like, it, possibly our successors, who might come along, would not like it".

That is the whole basis of the case that was made against this Bill in the Dáil—that those people were not entitled to get back their money unless they had retained either their original claims in their own possession, or if they had parted with them, or transferred them in any way, the people to whom they were transferred must be people acceptable to one section of our people, and that no longer the section representative of the majority of the Irish people. But apart from that what is the issue involved?

The number of assignments made to Mr. de Valera for the purposes of theIrish Press was not one-half of the total number assigned, and does not represent one-half the value of the bonds assigned. When the receivers were preparing to make the distribution at the end of 1929, approximately 34,000 certificates were lodged for repayment and lodged in each case by a person other than the original subscriber, and the value of these certificates amounted almost to 900,000 dollars. The title to them had been acquired in many ways. Some of them had been received as gifts; some of them had been acquired through death; some by purchase; some had been donations to religious and charitable organisations; some had been assignments to Mr. de Valera; some to the Friends of Irish Freedom; some to the Gaelic American newspaper; some to the Clan na Gael in America; some had been filed by relatives of residents in Ireland. Some of these certificates had been acquired in ways different from those to which I have referred. Were all these people, because they had not been the original subscribers, because they claimed by or under a subscriber, to be denied repayment simply because a section of political opinion here disapproved of the action of those who had transferred these Bonds to Mr. de Valera after what was, in all the circumstances, full and fair consideration?

It was necessary in asking for these bonds in January, 1930, when the value of them, according to the statement which I have just read, was well-established and was fully recognised throughout the United States of America, to ask them as a donation. But in asking as a donation this undertaking was given:—

"Whilst these funds are being solicited by way of donations, Mr. de Valera will, of course, not derive personally any monetary benefit from them. He intends to make the necessary and proper arrangements to ensure that if any profits accrue from the enterprise or if there should be any distribution of assets, such profits and the amount of any such distribution will be made available for the donors, according to their respective donations. For that purpose a register of those on whose assigned bond certificates a payment of ten dollars and over is made will be carefully kept. Payments of amount less than ten dollars, and the fractional part of one dollar, in payments amounting to more than ten dollars, will be credited to the assignors as advance subscriptions, for which they will receive an equivalent number of copies of the weekly edition of the proposed newspaper when issued."

In connection with that statement I should like to point out that the lowest denomination of bond issued was ten dollars and that, consequently, where a complete repayment was made or will be made on any ten-dollar bond every person who assigned that bond to Mr. de Valera will receive an equivalent participating share in a holding company in America which is being established to hold, on behalf of the donors referred to in this circular, shares of an equal amount in theIrish Press Limited. So that these bonds, if they were parted with or were assigned, were assigned for fair and full consideration. Whether they were assigned in that way or not, I have pointed out that they represent much less—I am not going to give the exact figures—that one-half of the total number of assignments and much less than one-half of the total value of the bonds assigned, because the major part of the American capital subscribed to the Irish Press was invested and put up, in the first instance, in the form of hard cash, not in the form of assignments.

I was saying that after January, 1930, a sudden silence over-shadowed our predecessors. So much so that towards the end of last year representations had been made to us from America that the obligations which our predecessors had assumed in regard to the loans should be fulfilled. The President and Minister for External Affairs received this letter from the American Minister in Dublin. I should like to say, before I read it, that the American Minister was communicated with to-day and stated that he did not object to my reading this letter to the Seanad, if I so desired. It has been stated in the Dáil that no demand or no request has been made for repayment. This letter is written from the Embassy of the United States of America at Dublin, and it is dated December 5, 1932. It is as follows:—

"Your Excellency,

"I have the honour to refer to my note, No. 294 of July 29th, 1930, respecting the repayment of American subscribers to the so-called Irish Republic Loans floated in the United States.

"The Legation has on file two notes dated respectively August 7th and 18th, 1930, and signed on behalf of the then Minister for External Affairs by a secretary of the Department, in which I was informed that my note of July 29th was under consideration by the Department and was likewise to be submitted to the Minister for Finance."

We are told that we are sometimes discourteous to foreign representatives here, but I do not think that, when we go out of office, any one will be able to parallel this act of gross discourtesy which is disclosed in this official letter from the United States Minister:

"Aside from these prefatory acknowledgements, however, I have received no reply, although more than two years have elapsed and although the subject dealt with is an important one. I most earnestly invite your Excellency's attention to the matter and request that I be acquainted with the action which the Government of the Irish Free State is taking in regard to it.

"Permit me to enclose for your Excellency's consideration, and as indicative of the recent pertinent developments in the United States a copy of the Receiver's intermediate Report No. 6 filed on April 9th, 1932, with the Supreme Court of New York.

"The copy of the report is complete except that certain exhibits covering detailed amendments to ledgers which are filed only with the court have been omitted, as appears from statements made on page 4. The Federation Bank and Trust Company, in which concern was deposited part of the funds in the hands of the Receivers was in liquidation at the time the report was filed, and this consequently delayed the Receivers in the final distribution of the funds and in making their final report. On October 3, 1932, the Federation Bank and Trust Company reopened for business and the funds deposited therein to the credit of the Receivers became available for payment and distribution (I enclose a clipping from theNew York Times of October 4, 1932). The Attorneys for the Irish Republic Bondholders' Committee report that they have been informed that the Receivers intend to make final payment and distribution within a period of about three months and that their final report will then be filed with the court.

"I have the honour again to request that I be informed of the measures adopted by your Excellency's Government looking to the total reimbursement of the American bondholders concerned. May I also inquire whether the appropriate agency of the Free State will, after the final report has been filed by the Receivers in America, be in a position to take into its possession for payment the bond certificates of the Republic of Ireland Loans now deposited with the Receivers, as well as the records and files, now also in their possession, in order to use the same for the purposes of facilitating payment of the sums which will remain due to the bondholders. I avail myself of this opportunity to convey to Your Excellency the renewed assurances of my highest consideration."

I think I ought to ask each member of the Seanad to ask himself individually what answer could be given in view of everything I have read—in view, particularly, of the definite and explicit undertakings given to the American Minister by our Minister for External Affairs on the 26th July, 1928, which was to the following effect:—

"The Government of the Irish Free State has repeatedly acknowledged this obligation to repay the bondholders of the External Loans, and this view has not been modified as a result of the decision given by the New York Supreme Court. The question at issue is, accordingly, only one of the proper time and machinery to be adopted for the repayment of the loans. My Government is satisfied that no action can be taken until the Receivers in New York have distributed the amounts they hold."

As regards the machinery to be adopted, it went on to state that a difficulty arose from the method of calculating interest, and so on.

I ask the members of the Seanad individually again, in view of that undertaking, what reply would they give, or what reply could any responsible Government give, to this inquiry received on the 5th December, 1932, from the American Minister in Dublin? Were they to say that we should repudiate the undertakings given by our predecessors, the undertaking given by the present President of the present Executive Government when he raised these loans on behalf of the Irish nation, the undertakings given by the Chairman of the Provisional Government, the late General Michael Collins, the undertakings given by the late Harry Boland, who took a very important and active part in the raising of these loans, the undertaking given in 1923 and repeated on June 13th, 1927, and finally conveyed to the United States Minister in July 1928, and repeated by Mr. Blythe in an interview published broadcast all over America in July 1929? That undertaking was repeated by Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald by word of mouth to every person he met in America in October of 1929. Again I ask what reply would be given by any one of us to that letter of the American Minister? Were we to say that we repudiated all this and that we were not going to pay? Were we to say that because some one or other of the subscribers had done something that we did not like with his bonds—no matter what—that we were not going to honour this obligation that has been assumed by every Government and by every person that was competent in any capacity to speak for the Irish people? I am perfectly certain that if any person was in the same position as the present Government, or as any member of the present Government was, in regard to that matter, they would have sent the reply which was sent in the following terms, on 17th December, 1932, to the American Minister by the President of the Executive Council and Minister for External Affairs. That letter was as follows:

"Excellency,

I have the honour to refer to your note, No. 438, of December 5th, concerning the repayment to American bondholders of the Dáil Eireann External Loans and to inform you of the decision reached by the Government on this question.

2. The Government has decided that:

(a) the sum of $1.25 will be paid either in stock or cash for each dollar subscribed to the loans, the amount paid on each dollar by the Receivers to be regarded as payment in part.

(b) The payment of $10 and $25 bond certificates will be completely in cash.

(c) The payments on bond certificates of denominations of $30, and upwards, will be in stock as to multiples of $5 in cash for the odd amounts in dollars and cents.

(d) The stock will be an Irish Free State Government security bearing interest at the rate of 3½ per cent. per annum, not subject to Free State tax, payable yearly, and redeemable at its nominal value at the end of a period of five years, or at any intervening date by purchase in the open market.

3. To give effect to these decisions it will be necessary to amend the "Dáil Eireann Loans and Funds Act, 1924." Legislative proposals for the amendment will be laid before Dáil Eireann on its reassembly on February 1, 1933.

4. It will also be necessary that the Government be put in possession of all the Receivers' records appertaining to the loans. The Government intends to be represented by attorney and to make application for those records at the hearing of the court when the Receivers apply for their discharge.

5. I must make it clear to your Excellency that all payments which it is proposed to make to the bondholders are to be regarded as of anex gratia nature. It is essential to guard against the possibilities of vexatious and expensive litigation, and the Government cannot assume any obligation which, under the law of the United States, could be constructed as a definite legal liability towards existing holders of bond certificates. This reservation does not touch the liability to holders of the stock to be issued in accordance with the decisions set out in paragraph 2. The obligation in respect of this new stock will, of course, remain unimpaired.

6. The intention is to begin by paying off the balances outstanding on the claims on which part payment has been made by the Receivers; claims for repayment which have not come to the notice of the Receivers will then be considered. In the case of these claims a reasonable interval will be allowed within which applications can be filed. When this interval has expired, no further application will be entertained.

Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurance of my highest consideration.

(Signed)

EAMON DE VALERA,

Minister for External Affairs."

That, I submit, is the only reply that any person who had concern for the honour and good name of the Irish people could give, and the honour and good name of the Irish people is bound up in this Bill. So that that good name may not be soiled, so that that honour may not be stained, I ask the Seanad of Saorstát Eireann to pass this Bill without any of the unseemly discussion which in the Lower House disgraced the good name of the State and the good name of our people throughout the world.

The fact that the Minister took over an hour and a quarter to introduce this simple Bill and the copious extracts which he read from State papers, shows how extremely anxious he is to conceal the real object of the Bill, which he could have told us in five minutes—that is, to present his Party organ with £80,000 or £100,000. The proposal is one of the most shameless ever put before any parliament. It is simply a proposal to use public money purely for Party purposes. In other countries the Government which would authorise its Minister for Finance to pay its President £80,000 or £100,000 for Party propaganda would not last a week. Here, public opinion is so demoralized as to be numb. This proposal may be tolerated until its full implications are understood. But the Government will eventually pay the penalty for this wholly disgraceful proceeding. If the Cumann na nGaedheal Party or Government attempted to divert public money into an enterprise of which President Cosgrave was the principal director, why, all the Fianna Fáil moralists in the country would be turning up the whites of their eyes and denouncing it as a piece of gross jobbery, but when it is done by the white-robed idealists of the Fianna Fáil Government it is merely a legitimate effort to assist a great national enterprise.

The genesis of this Bill is rather interesting. It will be remembered that the last Free State Government had undertaken to repay the bondholders, as the Minister has read out, of both the external and internal Republican loans; and with that object they claimed for the people of the Free State the residue of the money lying in the American banks. This claim was resisted in the American courts by Mr. de Valera, who was then claiming to be President of ade facto Republic. The Minister for Finance very care fully slurred over the fact that that claim was resisted. Mr. de Valera's lawyers not only urged, but he himself swore, that the Government of this State had no legitimate claim to these moneys, and that only the Government of an All-Ireland Republic could lawfully demand that they be handed over to it. The American court decided that the money should be given back to the bondholders, and in giving his decision the American Judge Peters stated this fact, which I would like to point out now, that the circumstances under which the loans were repayable were very remote and were not likely ever to occur.

Now, notwithstanding the letter of Diarmuid O'Hegarty, the pronouncements of the American Judge Peters would have much wider publicity. It is important to remember this, as his pronouncement undoubtedly gave the bondholders the impression that the bonds were valueless, and many of the bondholders parted with them under that impression. I should also like to point out that when the late Government of the Free State voluntarily undertook the repayment of the bonds they issued a warning that they would only repay the bonds directly to individual subscribers and not to any corporation holding a block of bonds, or to any traffickers in the bonds, as these bonds were distinctly marked on the face of them "Not negotiable." But Mr. de Valera's agents in America, notwithstanding the fact that the bonds were not negotiable, took assignments of these bonds to the amount of £80,000 or £100,000, and now Mr. de Valera, who has in the meantime become President of the Executive Council of this State—whose right to the bonds he disputed because it was not an All-Ireland Republic—introduces this Bill to pay these assignments to himself.

These are the proposals made, although we have not an All-Ireland Republic of any kind and although the President swore that the State of whose Executive Council he is now President, was not entitled to any of the assets or liabilities of this loan, yet £100,000 of the Free State taxpayers' money is, under this Bill, to pass through the medium of President de Valera into the coffers of theIrish Press, of which he was the chief director, and is still the controlling power. Now we are told that this was justifiable—the Minister did not claim that here but we were told it in the other House—because the Irish Press is a great national enterprise. Is it because President de Valera is the first chairman of its board of directors that it is a great national enterprise? And are we to take it that every commercial institution over which President de Valera presides is to be entitled to a subvention from State funds? It is well to have that matter cleared, because if that is to be understood, President de Valera's name will become very valuable on prospectuses.

Nobody could object if the money were paid direct to the original subscribers who could, if they wished, transfer it to theIrish Press, but for the Minister for Finance to issue a cheque for £100,000 to the President of his Executive for investment in the Irish Press outrages all standards of decent government.

We have to remember this in connection with it—that not only is the loan being paid in full without any deduction for the cost of the litigation for which President de Valera was responsible, but we are going to pay much more than we ever received, owing to the difference in the exchange, and we are going to pay it at a time when this country is in the throes of an economic war, at a time when the Minister for Finance told us that there was a vital necessity for every penny to be saved, at a time when income tax was doubled and a tax put on necessaries such as tea, and when every servant of the State has had his salary reduced. The people have had to tighten their belts to a degree which is hurtful, and a great part of the population is living precariously on home assistance. The farmer is being reduced to a state of servitude to the shopkeeper. On yesterday our cheerful colleague, Senator O'Neill, told us that there were more decrees in the hands of the sheriff now than ever before. Yet it is in these circumstances that we are to repay a loan of one and a half million pounds contracted over ten years ago.

Why are we to do it so hurriedly now, having waited ten years? Why could we not have waited a little longer, at least until the farmers have been demobilised at the end of the economic war? The real urgency of the repayment is to be found in the balance sheet which was submitted a few weeks ago to the shareholders' meeting of theIrish Press. That is the real explanation of the urgency: that the Government newspaper is in urgent need of home assistance and, consequently, the assignments have to be pressed into service to come to the rescue of the Irish Press. The manner in which those assignments were obtained in America have not done much credit to those concerned, because the Irish Press was represented there to the people as a great national non-Party paper. It was represented to them that prominent supporters of Cumann na nGaedheal, like Professor Tierney were interested in the establishment of an Irish Ireland organ, an organ that was to be thoroughly Irish Ireland, that was to elevate the moral tone of our people, and that was to provide them with healthy mental pabulum: that was to be free from the materialism and the West British features which we are told characterise other Irish dailies. Has the Irish Press justified these glowing representations? I think you have only got to look at it and you will find several features which are merely slavish imitations of what appears in the great English dailies. Its columns carry advertisements for all classes of English patent medicines and English commodities.

On a point of order. Is this discussion of theIrish Press connected with the Bill before the House?

I take it it is.

Cathaoirleach

I think it must be held to be.

By way of explanation, I would like to remind Senator Robinson that Senator MacLoughlin is very keenly interested in another newspaper himself.

I take it, sir, that on your ruling we will be justified in discussing theGaelic American by analogy.

Cathaoirleach

I do not know anything about theGaelic American.

I take it that I may do it?

Cathaoirleach

If the Senator can connect it with these funds then it will be relevant. Senator Robinson asked if it was in order to discuss theIrish Press on this Bill. I have ruled that it is, because Senator MacLoughlin is attempting to show that the necessity for this Bill arises owing to the fact that the Irish Press will receive a large portion of the funds. I rule accordingly.

Very good. May I put this further point? If I am able to establish a connection between the Chinese Mission and some of these funds, will I be allowed to discuss the Chinese Mission?

Cathaoirleach

Certainly.

I do not know why Senators should be so much afraid to have theIrish Press discussed. I want to refer to the fact that this organ, supposed to be a great Irish Ireland organ, was represented to the Americans as a non-Party organ whose purpose was to prevent the Irish people from having to read these low English dailies and what was described as the anti-national Press—that the columns of this organ are filled with all classes of advertisements for English patent medicines and English commodities from Skipper Sardines and Sunlight Soap to Wakefield Castrol Oil and Pond's Cold Cream. You will also find that this great organ of national enterprise is devoting a great deal of space to foreign fashions supplied by an English syndicate, and also to the esoteric mysteries of the beauty parlour. I am far from disputing that the supporters of Fianna Fáil would not be the better of a little beauty treatment, but surely they should model themselves on the demure Queen Maeve rather than on the mannequins of Paris and London.

What shocked me most about this organ of Irish Ireland was to find a whole page of it, actually to what columns, exclusively devoted to what the puritans of Irish Ireland regard as the most obnoxious of all foreign games—betting on English racing. Now I wonder how many of the bondholders entrusted their money to President de Valera so that the Irish people might be kept informed of the tittle tattle of Newmarket? Have the frontiers of Irish Ireland been extended, and are the interests of Irish Ireland now centred in English racing stables? Yesterday I saw a placard of theIrish Press with this: “Six winners yesterday,” and, as my Irish Irelandism is not as virile as it used to be, I purchased a copy of the paper. I found that this organ of Irish Ireland gave six tips each from five special racing correspondents—that is thirty selections between them—and they only succeeded in finding one winner. I could do better than that myself. I would suggest that if this aspect of Irish Ireland activity is to be properly attended to in the future it should be put in charge of the Minister for Justice. Now, the other day in the Dáil the President talked of gall and wormwood, but the unfortunate dupes who follow the tips of the Irish Press will have all the gall and wormwood they need. As for this Bill being gall and wormwood to the Opposition, I am just saying this for the benefit of Senator Quirke who reminded me that I am interested in another newspaper.

I would remind the Senator that he should be more cautious in future and put on 2/- each way instead of £1 each way.

I rather welcome this Bill and for this reason: that if Cumann na nGaedheal had the same ethical standards as Fianna Fáil this Bill, instead of being gall and wormwood to them, is going to be apples and nuts to them because it definitely establishes the principle that a Party in Opposition can use the funds of the State to subsidise their Party organ when they become a Government. That is the whole kernel of this Bill, and it is just as well to have it stated plainly, and to have the principle recorded on the Statute Book, for the guidance of future Governments.

What Opposition speakers say in this House is taken down, and I am sure Senator MacLoughlin, when he has forgotten his impatience at having backed each tip that was given in theIrish Press and lost, will be ashamed of what he has said——

I have better sources of information than it.

——because, although he is very eloquent and sometimes very incisive, I have never found him to be bitter.

That is not my reputation.

On the present occasion I think he rather passes the bounds. I am inclined to give him credit for this, that, perhaps, he has spoken without any real knowledge of the facts of this case. I do happen, for special reasons, to know something about the facts. The Minister for Finance, at the opening of his very clear and lucid statement, gave you the form of the receipt issued by the President of the Executive, when this money was received. Of course the money was to be repayable one month after the territory of the Republic was free from British military control. If Miss MacSwiney or somebody like her had argued that this money was not payable at present, I would simply bow and remain silent. But I cannot remain silent when I hear the arguments put forward, by members of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, both in this House and in the Dáil. It is said that Mr. de Valera was responsible for litigation in America. The facts are these: That in the month of July, 1922, it was, as I believe, quite open to Mr. de Valera to have withdrawn that money and used it for any purpose he thought proper. In August, 1922 an action was brought at the instance of the Provisional Government, in the American courts in which they were plaintiffs, and Mr. de Valera the defendant. He did not institute the proceedings, he merely defended himself in these courts. When he is accused of being responsible for litigation, the accusation reminds me of what the Frenchman in the menagerie said: "This animal is dangerous; when he is attacked he defends himself." It was obvious to us at a very early stage in that litigation, after the forces of the Republic had been defeated—I will frankly admit that the Republic was defeated—after the "cease fire" order, that neither party to the litigation in America was entitled to the money. They talk of the lawyers fighting but, on that occasion, the lawyers were fighting for the shells, the oyster was to go back to the people who subscribed for the bonds. I gave that opinion very early in 1924. That is the origin of the statement quoted as having been made by Mr. Sean T. O'Kelly, which is contained in column 1747 of the Official Debates of the Dáil. I am quoting this from Mr. Desmond Fitzgerald's speech of the 15th July, 1933:—

"I am reading from the White Paper, documents A and B, issued in 1930, Mr. Seán T. O'Kelly speaking:—

‘Later on, acting on instructions from here (that is from Ireland), and arising out of advice given by the lawyers, I was instructed to get formed a bondholders' committee, and that committee took a practical form about April, 1925.'"

If there is anybody to be blamed in regard to the bondholders' committee, I accept the blame, for it was I who advised that, at that date, neither Party would succeed in the litigation, and that the judge would almost inevitably decide that the money was to be repaid to the bondholders. I did recommend that a bondholders' committee should be formed, because I knew that the cause of Ireland required further subsidy from our friends across the Atlantic. I knew very well that some of the men who would be repaid their money would be anxious to contribute further to the cause of their country. The litigation proceeded over 1925. There were great disputes between lawyers, both here and in America. A considerable amount of expense was incurred, but the conclusion of the case was foregone. It was certain, and we knew it was certain, at least I did, and I so advised. That advise referred to in Mr. Seán T. O'Kelly's speech was given in 1925. A bondholders' committee was then appointed. It was not until June, 1927, that Judge Peters delivered his judgment, and, with a certain amount of vanity, perhaps, I am glad to say that he delivered it in almost identical terms with the opinion which I had given two years before. Why blame the President for matters in regard to which he had only the concern of the leader of the movement of the time? After Judge Peters' decision was given in 1927, the usual accounts and inquiries took place. The usual advertisements were issued, and two or three years more were occupied before the Receivers appointed by the courts in America were ready to distribute the fund. I hope that Senator Milroy will follow me in this debate.

Not otherwise.

Early in January of 1930 the money was ready for distribution but, in the preceding July, in 1929, Mr. Blythe broadcasted throughout America the fact that the money was there, that it was payable, and that it was ready for distribution. He took very good care that nobody should be ignorant of the fact that these bonds were of value. Why did he do that? Because he knew that a bondholders' committee had been appointed in America—in fact, two bondholders' committees—and he knew that a great number of those who had originally subscribed in 1919 and 1920 were willing to leave the money in the hands of those who upheld the cause of Irish independence. That is the reason why the Cumann na nGaedheal Party as a Government admitted their liability. However, they did not distribute the money. I do not make any charge but, here is the coincidence, that they knew very well that a considerable percentage of that money was to go into the hands of Mr. de Valera for national purposes, including the financing, to a certain extent of theIrish Press. They knew that. They may not, of course, have been anxious to support political opponents. I make no further charge. Mr. Griffith said in 1919 that the Irish were fighting in the cause of their country with the heroism of the early martyrs. So they were. I knew some of the men well. I was closely associated with them and as long as any single man of them stood up in defence of his country, I certainly was determined to stand by his side. I think when Senator Milroy or Senator MacLoughlin calmly consider the position they will find that this is not a matter for Party acrimony.

Hear, hear.

There is no Party manoeuvre, so far as I can see, in this case. We have it that in December, 1932, the American Minister called attention to the fact that these bonds were due to American citizens and that they ought to be paid. Will my friend go so far as to say that that document from the American ambassador is a forgery—that it is a concocted document?

I knew he would not. Then it is a genuine document—a genuine demand by the American Minister for the payment of this money, with a complaint that the payment had been delayed for years after it had been promised. Great play is made of the fact that some of this money has been given to theIrish Press. Were not the Americans entitled to contribute to the Irish Press if they so desired? A number of these bonds were contributed to funds and papers in America. Very few of them, I must admit, were contributed to the Cumann na nGaedheal Party. I think that their bondholders' committee, formed in imitation of our bondholders' committee, was not a gigantic success. Some of the money has been devoted to the Chinese Missions and some to other charitable purposes. These bonds were originally subscribed out of love of country without any great hope that the money would ever be paid back. It was to be paid only after the last British soldier had left these shores. I dare say that a number of people gave the money in the same spirit as the Clare man gave 2/6 to the Donegal man on the eve of the battle of Waterloo. He said: “I suppose it is as good as gone.” By a miracle, the people are to get the money back. Some of them have kept their bonds, and others said: “I gave the money up for good when I gave my subscription in 1920; let it still remain in the fund.” These are some of the reasons why gentlemen on the other side, mindful of their own reputation, should be cautious about what they say. Might I not retort to Senator Milroy——

I have not spoken.

I know what the Senator is going to say.

Why anticipate my crushing rejoinder?

The Senator's batteries are there and will soon be unmasked. To members of the Opposition, I might say: "These men you now charge were once your friends." As regards theIrish Press, it is a very good paper on questions of racing. Of course, it might happen that it would be wrong six times on a bad morning, but then, if Senator MacLoughlin had continued to back the same tips, he might have won next day. With regard to the beauty parlour and other matters like that, I suggest to Senator MacLoughlin and other Senators here that some of the advertisements are well worthy of being studied and followed. I was greatly annoyed in the Dáil, when I heard some of the Deputies making reckless charges against people who were in no way responsible. In my opinion, this matter is absolutely and entirely clean. That is why I support it.

The speech of the Minister for Finance in introducing this Bill was in certain respects rather unfortunate. He hoped that a certain line of criticism and the introduction of matters which were not immediately or closely associated with the Bill might be avoided in this House. He then went on to deal with matters which had not been raised or suggested here and which there was no certainty would be suggested here but which had been suggested in another House. He was followed by Senator Comyn, who went back over a considerable amount of history, some of which some of us could dispute. He then expressed the hope that Senator Milroy would follow on the same lines in replying to him. We are assured that the Government and its supporters do not want these matters discussed. If they are discussed, they have only themselves to blame for it.

I do not propose to follow the Minister with regard to theIrish Press, nor do I propose to follow Senator Comyn in some of the earlier parts of his speech, with which I disagree. I shall be pleased to point out to him privately why I disagree, but I do not consider that the matters are sufficiently relevant to this Bill to be dealt with now. I should like to make quite clear that at no time did I question or doubt, nor do I doubt now, the absolute liability of the Saorstát for the repayment of these bonds. I know that it can be held by the decision of the Court in America that there is no legal liability. But I do not think that any responsible person—the number would be very small at any rate—on any side of our political system has disputed the fact that these bonds are repayable to the citizens who subscribed them. If I have any quarrel with this Bill, it is that it was thought wise to introduce it just at the present moment. I think that, with a Bill to effect economies in the public services and with the general economic position, if the Ministry wanted to introduce a Bill in order to show their good faith—I can quite understand that and I can quite understand their being unwilling to wait—a time limit might have been introduced.

After all, we know quite well that no country is seeking immediately to repay its debts at the present moment, certainly not debts which it is not legally obliged to pay at once. We know that very large and respected countries are finding it difficult to pay debts for which they are legally liable. I should like to make a suggestion to the Minister in all seriousness, and that is that he should, having got his Bill passed, take advantage of the word "may" which he will find in Section 2, and that having established the principle of the question—which I welcome, because there were doubts as to one of the parties—the State should not repay at once but, having regard to the economic position of the country, delay for a couple of years the actual completion of the repayments. That will do a great deal to answer many of the charges that have been made. It would be to our benefit here. It would help us to balance the Budget within the next couple of years, and I think that action would be perfectly understood by any of those to whom this money is to be paid. It is well known that our country is not in such a "flush" condition that we can afford to make these payments freely. It is known that other countries are in a similar position. There is, I believe, a sum of one and a half millions involved. We made an alteration in the "Cuts" Bill, and I believe that the interest on this money would enable that alteration to be carried out and still to balance the Budget. I hope seriously that will be considered by the Minister. It will go a long way to answer many of the charges that have been made. Whatever any of us may feel, and we are all subject to Party feeling—I am no different in that respect from anybody else—I do not believe anybody wishes to see any suggestion made against responsible Ministers, no matter what Party they belong to, because anything of that kind not only injures the particular people concerned, but injures also the credit of the State as a whole. I make no charges in my speech of any kind, good, bad or indifferent. I regret that the Minister, in introducing the Bill, thought fit to make charges as to the attitude of his predecessors towards the repayment of this loan and as to the delay which took place in the payment of the bonds. I am not going to defend these things. I think it is better to leave the matter as it is, but I do seriously suggest that no harm would be done to the bondholders if repayment were delayed for two or three years. The Bill will be passed, and it will show that the Oireachtas accepts full liability for this loan. Our credit will not then be in question, while considerable advantage might be derived from the adoption of my suggestion.

I was foolish enough to think that the result of this debate in the Seanad would be to undo at least some of the damage caused by the debate on this Bill in the Dáil. I was rather relieved to hear Senator Douglas make the statement that he never doubted our liability for the debt. I am only sorry that Senator Douglas could not find it in his heart to go the rest of the way and to say that he never doubted the honesty of the President of this State.

He did say that.

He would, in that way, perhaps say what he felt in his heart. I did not hear him say it.

I do not know that any suggestion was made by those who spoke in reference to the honesty of the President. Nothing I said in any way suggested anything against his personal honesty nor do I know that anybody else suggested anything of the kind.

I accept the explanation of Senator Douglas but I do say that the Senator was not unmindful of certain statements made either in this House or the other House. To prove that what I say is correct I shall refer to what Senator Douglas just mentioned a couple of minutes ago. He said he believed that certain statements made by responsible Ministers of either Party—whatever he means by "either Party"—could have no other result except to injure the credit of the State as a whole.

I do not think that is what I stated.

I am open to correction but that is how I interpret it. I interpreted the Senator's remark as an attempt to throw blame in some measure or other on the present Minister for Finance. It is regrettable that anybody should misinterpret the opening statement of the Minister for Finance. I think the majority of the House interpreted his remarks as I did —as an appeal more or less, to have no more of this personal abuse, these personal slanders on prominent members of the State which we all know can do nothing but harm to the people as a whole. I do not propose to go into the legal aspect of the matter. It has been proved to the satisfaction of both Parties—at least on various occasions it has been admitted by both Parties in this House, by the previous Administration and the present Administration, that the debt was certainly a lawful debt. If that is so, it would seem to me the only question now in dispute is how people should spend what is admitted to be their own money.

Going over past history, and we do not have to be very conversant even with that, it is only natural to suppose that the people who subscribed the money in the first instance, if they decided again to invest their money, would invest it in some proposition which, in their opinion, would forward the cause of Irish independence in this country. That is exactly what has happened in this case. But because the result does not seem to meet with the approval of the minority in this country, not alone the responsible Ministers of our Government, but the Irish people at home and abroad must be slandered by the members of the Opposition. I am not referring to any great extent to the debate as it has proceeded so far in this House. I do not even go so far as my friend, Senator Comyn, to anticipate Senator Milroy.

You could not.

I could not, he said. I suppose I should not. As a matter of fact I am generally surprised when I hear Senator Milroy come out with some of his wild statements. I often wonder, considering the condition of affairs existing in this country at present, and considering the statements made by Senator Milroy, if it could be possible he is the same man he was a good many years ago when he was addressing public meetings.

Is this relevant to the Bill?

The Senator said under a rather similar circumstance that if certain action was insisted on, he and his Party would make every house a fort, every street a shambles and every open plain a field of battle. That was his language.

Could the Senator give the date of these rather spectacular expressions?

I think the Senator was quite in his sober senses at the time, and he ought to remember the date. I was too young at the time, but he said it at every cross roads around my part of the country, and he led a lot of young fellows astray because they believed he was going to do all these things. In any case, I do not think we should let this debate go without referring in some small way to the statement made by Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald in the other House. As will be seen from the debate, apparently the particular job of general mudslinger was entrusted to Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald during that debate. Maybe he thinks that he made a good job of it, but I think that the results will be more disastrous to his Party than he could ever hope them to be to the Party on this side of the House. I quote from theSaturday Herald of July 15, 1933, and I am sure that it is in the Official Debates if I could find it:—

"Mr. Desmond Fitzgerald (Cumann na nGaedheal—Carlow-Kilkenny), said he thought they might describe this Bill as a Bill to provide that certain citizens of an alien country acting through a person named De Valera should control a newspaper purporting to be national—theIrish Press—for the purpose of seeing that the Irish people's minds should be moulded, not according to the well-being of their own country, but according to the policy that those aliens wish to dictate.”

I am well aware that the people have long since quit taking any serious notice of the particular sort of mud-slinging indulged in to such an enormous extent by Deputy Fitzgerald on this occasion. However, I think it rather interesting to hear any Deputy, no matter what Party he belongs to in this country, referring to the Irish in America as "these aliens." We will pass over the personal attack on the President and we will pass over the attempted attack on what he describes as the "kept organ," but I wonder does Deputy Fitzgerald or any member of his Party deny the title of Irishmen or Irishwomen to that particular section of the Irish people who have been forced to emigrate from this country from time to time, or to the descendants of the men who were shipped out of this country in chains. Does he deny the claim to the title of Irishman of such men as Captain Mackey, Colonel Warren and the rest of the Fenians—the men, some of them, who were born in the United States of Irish parents and who came over here to fight in arms to ensure that the people of this country should not be held, as Senator Milroy so often described them, as the "bond-slaves of British Imperialism?" Does he deny that the men who formed the military council with Stephens and who, practically every one of them, took a leading part in the War of Independence in the United States, and many of whom came over here afterwards to sacrifice their lives and liberties for the people of this country have any claim to the title? Does he also refer to them as "those aliens?" Does he disclaim the nationality of the Clan na Gael and kindred organisations in America, the men and women who made the truce of 1921, to a great extent, possible, the men who did far more in their own way, each and every one of them, than the great Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald, who, at that time, believed that the pen was mightier than the sword and who, until 1923, did not begin to think that the sword was the mightier weapon?

He goes on to refer to the people who subscribed this money in the United States as the servant girls. The same phrase was used against Parnell as is now being used against President de Valera. They said that Parnell collected the money from the servant girls in America to fight the cause of this country against the British, and now we have this super-patriot, with his ultra-Oxford accent, coming along to throw the same phrase in President de Valera's face. I wonder by what authority does Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald or any other Deputy or Senator in this country refer to the Irish in America or the Irish in this country in such sarcastic terms? By what authority does the Deputy set himself on a pedestal to look down on the unfortunate people who, because of the misgovernment under Cumann na nGaedheal or under the British, were forced to leave this country and seek a living in another land? In reality, this Oireachtas is the servant of the servant girls and servant boys of this country, and its members are put here at the will of the servant girls and servant boys of this country, and I say that it is a disgraceful thing that any man who holds a responsible position in this country should use such terms in reference to Irish citizens and Irish patriots.

It may appear to some people that this attack by the Deputy in the Dáil was a personal attack on the President and nothing else, and it may appear to other people that it was an attack merely on theIrish Press. Some people, perhaps, may be convinced, as a result of that particular Deputy's statements, that it was right that the Irish Press should be attacked because it was the official organ of Fianna Fáil—to use the Deputy's own expression, “the kept organ,” if you do not mind. The Irish Press, since its first issue was published, has consistently advocated the policy of Irish independence. Is it because Fianna Fáil has also advocated the same policy that the Irish Press must be described as the “kept organ” of the Government Party? The London Times and several other English newspapers have consistently preached the same policy as we hear preached from the Opposition Benches here and in the Dáil, since this economic war started. They have preached a policy of surrender, a policy of hoisting the white flag on behalf of the people of this country. Are we, then, to assume that the London Times, the London Observer, the Daily Express or any of the other English papers with English or pro-English tendencies are the official organs of Cumann na nGaedheal? I am sure that the proprietors of those papers would not be at all complimented. It would appear to me that there is something far more serious behind this mud-slinging campaign indulged in in the Dáil.

It would appear to me that it is a definite attempt to arouse the anger of people of Irish extraction and Irish birth in the United States against this State; an attempt to create lack of confidence in the Government of this country and in its people amongst a powerful body of Irishmen in the United States. Is it not apparent to anybody with any commonsense or any knowledge of the past history of this country that, when on previous occasions we were in serious difficulty, and when the people who are now referred to by Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald as "these aliens"——

I have the Official Report here, and I submit that Deputy Fitzgerald made use of no such statement. I have listened impatiently to the statements Senator Quirke has been making about Deputy Fitzgerald. I have the record of the debate here, and I submit that he referred neither to the Irish in America as aliens, nor to Irish servant girls. I can definitely deny that.

I said I was quoting from a certain responsible paper in this country. It is the usual procedure for Senator Milroy or anybody else, if he finds himself mis-quoted, either to take an action against the paper, if the matter is serious enough, or at least to contradict the report.

Here is the Report of the debate.

If a report is not contradicted, then it may be taken as correct.

I am contradicting the Senator's statements now.

The Senator has no right to interrupt me in that fashion. He knows that at this hour of the night we are not going to start reading the various contemptible references made by Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald and the rest of his satellites in the other Chamber.

So the Senator is not sure of his quotations?

I am certain of my quotations.

I have here the Dáil Official Report.

I am as sure of my quotations as I am about the quotations I gave in reference to you. I am just as sure as that they are in front of your eyes if you read them, only I know you do not want to.

Cathaoirleach

It is a rather serious thing, Senator Quirke, to say that Senator Milroy has deliberately declared what is untrue for the purpose of deceiving the House. I do not think that is a correct statement to make.

I withdraw that statement.

Cathaoirleach

The Senator might have done it, but he certainly would not do so deliberately.

I withdraw the remark. There was no necessity for me to make such a remark, but everybody will understand. I say there is something very serious in this attempt to ostracise Irish people in the United States, people who, on every occasion on which they were approached by responsible representatives of the people in this country, were always found ready and willing to come to our assistance, not alone with money and arms, but with men to carry those arms in defence of this country. There is, of course, a pro-British element in the United States just as there is a pro-British element in this country. I interpret the statement made by Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald as an attempt to form an unholy alliance, as it might well be described, between the pro-British element in this country, the pro-British element in the United States and the place they know as the motherland, England. It is an attempt to organise the people in both countries in defence of the Empire against the interests of our own people.

The Deputy should be well aware of the powerful influence of the Irish population in the United States. He should know that on a previous occasion, when a certain United States President took the unwise step of appearing to be on the side of Britain, the Irish influence in the United States made it impossible for that particular President to carry on. He should know that the weight of that influence, if directed in the proper channel, could be utilised for the benefit of this country. In view of the existing conditions here, I think it ought to be the duty of every Irishman, whether Cumann na nGaedheal, Fianna Fáil, Centre Party, Independent, or whatever else he may be to be very careful not to ostracise anybody who might be useful in the defence of this country. It ought to be the duty of any sensible man, if he cannot say anything helpful, at least to be discreet.

It has been held up as an extraordinary thing that the Irish people in the United States should assign certain sums to President de Valera personally. I think, rather than try to put any wrong construction on that action, the people of this country should be proud to know that any individual representing our people could gain the confidence of others to such an extent as President de Valera has gained the confidence of the Irish in America. I have no hesitation in saying that no man, regardless of what Party he belongs to, could go to the United States, or any other country, and meet with the same success, or be trusted by the people universally to the extent that the President was trusted by the people of America on that and other occasions.

The people who are levelling this destructive criticism at the Government to-day know that just as well as I do. They know that not one of them would attempt such a mission as that successfully concluded by the President. I challenge Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald or anybody else to stand on a public platform in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles or any of the other big cities in the United States and make the statements that have been made in this House and in the Dáil by responsible people— make suggestions of personal gain and practically day-light robbery in relation to President de Valera. They would be too wise to take any such risk. They would be too wise to attempt any such action in any other country, because they know what would happen. I do not wish any evil to any of the members of the Opposition, but I do say that if Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald carried on in New York, as he carried on in Dublin, what would be left of the Deputy would not fill a penny match box. I do not want to detain the House any longer. The legality of the case, and that we definitely owe this debt, has been admitted by both Parties. If we owe the debt, then why not take up the attitude so strenuously and vigorously taken up by members of the Opposition in what must, at least, be a doubtful debt, namely, the land annuities. This debt that we are dealing with in this Bill is admitted by both Parties to be a perfectly legal debt which we owe to the people and the descendants of the people who made it possible for the people in this State to enjoy the independence in which we find ourselves to-day. I would refer our critics on this occasion to the various statements made by them in reference to the land annuities, and I would refer them also to the seventh commandment.

I wish to respond to the appeal made to the Minister in regard to the tone of this debate, and I join with him in his regret as to what he described as the character of the debate in the other House, and which he said disgraced that House. I trust the association of the Minister with the atmosphere in this House for the last few days will enable him to transmit to the other House of the Oireachtas that high conception of conduct and procedure that so strongly marks the Seanad. I am not so sure that his own stalwart, who has just concluded, harkened as ardently to his advice as he might have done. Judging by certain quotations that he made, and on which he built a whole structure of assumption, I am afraid I would not be very well advised to make Senator Quirke either my Boswell or conscience. The Minister spoke for an hour and a quarter, and for about one hour and ten minutes of that time he was simply hammering at an open door. Senator Comyn followed in much the same line, and for that part of his speech he was by no stretch of the imagination relevant to the matter before the House. Senator Quirke also manfully assisted in hammering at the open door. There is no question as to the duty of this House as to liability for repayment. That is not the question at issue.

I did not say it was.

The assumption in the whole argument of the Minister to-night during his speech, with the exception of about five or ten minutes, was that those who were criticising him and his Party and this Bill were contesting the suggestion that the Saorstát should meet its liabilities.

About three weeks ago—to be exact on the 27th June—I wandered into the Dáil, not knowing what was being discussed, and I heard the Minister for Finance uttering these words.

"We have been accused by another State of repudiating our honourable obligations. Here is an obligation whose first basis, at any rate, is that of honour. People lent us money when no other people in the world would be prepared to advance a penny piece in order that we might sustain the cause of the Irish people. It was advanced, as Deputy Minch has stated, in days when those who gave it had plenty of money, but owing to the change in world circumstances, their position is not now as good as it was then. Most of those who gave that money did not make any assignment of rights regarding repayment; they are people who are in dire need of it to-day."

I ask the House particularly to note this passage:

"As we can afford it, and I think we can afford it, even from the humanitarian point of view if from no other point of view, we should immediately take steps to repay this money to those who want it for their own personal use."

When I heard the Minister utter these words, I said there is no one in this House, or in the Oireachtas, or in the State, who could have the hardihood to resist that case. But unfortunately I did not hear the whole of that speech. The Minister pleaded for the discharge of this liability in order that those who were in dire need in the State which had subscribed it should have this assistance given to them. I do not know if we can have that guarantee, and if a provision be inserted in this Bill that this money is going to be paid directly back to those who subscribed it. If so, there will not be much resistance to the passing of this Bill. It is because there are people, as the Minister described it, who gave this money in times of comparative affluence, and who are now in a state of dire need of that money, and because there is doubt, and not merely doubt, but almost certainly, in great measure that the funds which are due to be repaid are not going to go back to those people but are going to the newspaper organ of a political Party here in this country, and because it was not from that source that the funds were secured to carry on the fight for Ireland, that the Opposition arises.

The Minister came into this House to-night with the air of a magician who is going to extract from his portfolio some sensational or surprising document. There is no document that he has read out in support of his statement that has any point of argument at all but is an argument in support of the suggestion that this money, if it is paid at all, should go back to the people from whom it was derived. There are many aspects of this matter that deserve consideration and that should be considered without introducing any acrimony or bitterness. If anyone becomes excited and indulges in loss of temper when they are confronted with plain facts that is an evidence that they are afraid to face the facts. The Minister read towards the conclusion of his remarks, a letter from the American Minister, the date of which, I think, was December, 1932, Senator Comyn asked me was I going to describe that letter as a forgery. I do not know why he should have even suggested that I would cast such a reflection upon a document produced here bearing the signature of the American Minister. If I did not think that he made the comment in a rather facetious mood I would be inclined to resent it very deeply indeed. I want to ask the Minister if I am correct about the date. Was it December, 1932?

I want to know why that letter, which has been in possession of the Minister since that time, was not read during the discussion in the Dáil where there were people who had held responsible positions prepared to cope with it. He knows very well that there is no one who can speak for the Opposition in this House at present who is in the favourable position of having had contact with documents and information of that sort. But there is in the other House, and this particular document was not produced there. I want to know why. He may have good reason, but, so far as I have seen, during the debate, that document was not produced there.

I understand the Minister to say that he only got permission to-day to read the letter.

He has the letter in his possession since December, 1932, and, anticipating the discussion, he could have secured that permission in time to have it read in the Dáil.

No one could anticipate that kind of discussion.

Senator Milroy is here to deal with it and no man is better fitted.

Cathaoirleach

The Senator is dealing with it and he ought to be allowed to deal with it in his own way.

Senator Johnson assumes an air of righteous indignation. There have been occasions of late when I have had my faith in the sincerity of the Senator very considerably strained——

Is that fair?

——because he has played the part of a partisan in the last few months in this Seanad in a manner which has been in marked contrast with his actions and attitude during previous sessions of the Seanad. I was struck by what one might describe as the historical irrelevancies with which the Minister put forward his case to-night. In one sense it must have been charmingly disarming to some of his listeners and to others it must have been astounding to find that the Minister, who, with his Party, contested the right of this State to the residue of the funds in America, should be now pointing out the strict continuity of the righteousness of the claim of this State to these funds which has been preserved. One would never dream from listening to the Minister, that the present President of the Executive Council had contested the right of this State to these funds in America. If my word on that matter is doubted, I should like to read an extract from a source which was not very long ago described by the present head of the Executive Council as being the real authority in this State.

This is a statement from the Executive Council of the Second Dáil, Republic of Ireland, in connection with this matter we are discussing. It declares that it only intervenes "because Mr. de Valera persists in an attempt to assert a claim on behalf of the Free State Executive similar to that which he opposed in the courts of the United States when advanced by his predecessors in the Government". I am not quoting that as a proof that Mr. de Valera was correct in his previous attitude or action, and I only refer to it as interesting evidence of the change of attitude that has come over the present Executive Council from the President down to the Minister who is with us to-night. They recognise now, apparently, that this is the rightful authority within the Saorstát and that any other body that pretends to such sovereign authority is putting forward a claim which will have to be met, and not in the same effective fashion as the predecessors in office of the present Government met previous challengers to the authority of the Executive of the Free State.

While that is to a certain degree relevant to the Bill, I, perhaps, have a tendency to stray from what is the real kernel of the matter at issue. And what is that? It is simply that the present President of the Executive Council by certain methods—I am not going to say they are questionable methods—intercepted these bonds between the source from which they would be repaid and the people to whom they should be repaid. The methods adopted to secure that may not be such as render the members of the Executive Council amenable to the law, but they look, I think, very suspiciously like a process of bootlegging funds from the Exchequer of the Free State into the coffers of theIrish Press. I say it is regrettable that there could be any grounds for such a thing arising, or for the suspicion of such a thing arising. I join with the Minister in his appeal for the absence of anything that might cast odium upon the discussions here, but I say that the thing that is behind this Bill, and which one cannot but suspect has precipitated the introduction of this Bill, is such that to gloss it over or to ignore it, lest perhaps one might be suspected of a lack of decorum, is, I think, to fail in the duty of a responsible legislator who has to watch vigilantly over the interests, and especially to watch over the finances, of the State and to see that they are not diverted by any method into channels into which those State funds were never intended to be diverted when the taxpayers provided the revenues of this country.

The Minister will not deny—he has not denied—that if this Bill passes, a large sum—I think a figure has been mentioned of about £100,000—will go into the coffers of theIrish Press, and that from the funds of this State those moneys will find their way into the coffers of the Irish Press. No matter how that may be explained, no matter how that may be paraded as being the right of the subscribers to devote their funds in that direction, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It clothes this Bill with an atmosphere of suspicion which will not reflect credit upon the State and is likely to injure the prestige of the Parliament responsible for it in many directions. I am not at all certain, sir, that the matter is finished yet. I think there is a legal point yet to be decided. These bonds, on the face of them, are stated to be not negotiable. I want to know, if that is so, how they can, without the express sanction from the time the money is being repaid, be devoted to the purpose to which they will be devoted if this Bill becomes law as it stands and if the legal action is not taken to prevent that happening. The President may claim that in the matter of impeccability Cæsar's wife was above suspicion and that he is as above suspicion as that lady ever was. It has been stated not only by the President but by others that he derives not one penny of monetary advantage from that. One would think that advantages in this world can only be described in the terms of what, I think, American gangsters call “a split” of the spoils. There are other advantages than monetary advantages—advantages which appeal to certain minds more than monetary advantages. Filthy lucre may have no attraction for them, but the lure of power, the attraction of being the big white chief, to be on a pedestal above the ordinary people, is an attraction that transcends in some minds any other attraction a thousand-fold greater than the lure of money. If anybody will tell me, or if anybody will try to argue, that in the matter of this latter kind of advantage the President of the Executive Council has derived nothing, well, I think the sooner this House should disband, and its members be interned in some institution for people suffering from senile decay, the better.

We know very well that these funds are going to be used to maintain a Party organ, and that this State is going to be asked to subsidise a Party organ. As a matter of fact, it has become a habit or a fashion to subsidise and give bounties to everything, and now it is proposed to give bounties to their Party organ in order that the Party may be able to fool the people a little longer and retain power. There is one way which I suggest is a simple method, by which the critics of the Government can be disarmed. There is one way in which, I think, the suspicions may be allayed. There is one way in which this whole thing may be settled and which does not necessarily mean that theIrish Press will not receive its “split” from the bonds. I suggest—and I should like to have some assurance from the Minister here, before we dismiss this Bill on its Second Stage, that the suggestion I am about to make will be considered—that before repayment is made, all those transfers of money or of bonds will be declared to be cancelled, and that the money will be repaid directly to the original bondholders. Then they will have the option to pay that money to the Irish Press, or to retain it, or to give it for any other purpose they may wish to select. At any rate, if that is done, the Executive Council will have disarmed its critics. It will have removed the odium and the suspicion that at present attaches to this Bill. It will have silenced the voice of criticism.

In this respect—I do not say in other respects that my criticism will be silenced—but at any rate, in this respect it will have established its good faith, and that it is actuated, really, in the sense which the Minister suggested, by a desire to honour the moral obligations of this State and not by a desire to manoeuvre certain of the State funds into the coffers of this Party organ.

I ask the Ministers to consider this. I wish to urge that in a State such as this, in matters of this kind, we cannot be too scrupulous to prevent the finger of suspicion or odium to be directed at those responsible for the life of the State. I ask the Minister to take steps to clear from the public mind the suspicions that at present exist. If we get that assurance, and if he had given that assurance in the Dáil, I, for one, would not have offered one word of criticism to-night. I hope it is not too late now to expect that some such step will be taken to re-establish the good name of this State and the good name of this Government in so far as it existed before this Bill was introduced into the Oireachtas.

I would be the last to decry the criticism of members of a Government in a matter where there was a question of financial interest of a private nature being served, and that official influence was being used in that direction. I think it is very desirable that the Opposition, as well as the friends of the Government, should be alert and vigilant in such matters. But I think that the line of criticism in this matter has made useless any thought of serious criticism of the Government or any member of the Government because it has not been directed to keeping the Government from overstepping the lines of decorum or judicial action or practice. It seems to me that it is deliberately malignant and deliberately mischievous. There seems to be no doubt, after Senator Milroy's speech, as to the liability of the State for the repayment of these bonds. Senator Milroy claims, as I myself claim, that the Free State when it was established was responsible for the liabilities of the pre-Treaty authority in this country. It has always seemed to me to be regrettable that the members of the present Opposition when they were members of the Government should do their best to decry the action of Fianna Fáil in coming into the Dáil and accepting the responsibility that that action involved. They seem to be at the same sort of thing again. They seem to be regretting, judging by their criticism, that President de Valera should have accepted the liabilities of the Free State simply because he opposed the claims of the Free State before he had accepted responsibility for what his entry into the Dáil involved.

I differ entirely from Senator Douglas in his regrets at the line taken by the Minister in introducing this Bill. I am very glad indeed that the Minister did come and make a statement, fortified by documentary evidence, and lay the case fairly before this House in a quieter atmosphere than existed in the Dáil. I think it is very desirable that the matter should be stated as clearly, and as fully documented, as he placed it before us. The issue seems to me to have been put to-night not as to the liability of the State to repay these bonds, but that the opportuneness of the particular moment that should have been chosen by the Government was particularly unfortunate. It seems to me, and I am quite sure many people have the same idea, that the introduction of this Bill just about the time of the annual meeting of the shareholders of theIrish Press, rather put the Government in a difficult position and made it a target for criticism.

But I think the letter that was read by the Minister justifies to the hilt the introduction of the Bill and the passing of it before the end of this present session. I speak of the letter which was received from the representative of the United States Government in this country. It is a great pity that the Minister had not been in a position to quote it before the discussion developed in the Dáil. Had he done so, I do not think anybody could have denied that the Minister was bound, in deference to that demand of the United States Government, to introduce a Bill to carry out the obligations that their predecessors had entered into. To my mind, whatever doubt there might have been about the opportuneness of the introduction of this Bill are dissipated completely by the reading of that letter.

I do not want to speak at any great length on that letter, but as theIrish Press and the fortunes of the Irish Press have been quoted so frequently, I should like to direct the attention of those who think as they have been thinking, or pretend to think as they have been thinking, to the statements made by Deputy Cosgrave on another Bill, just a day or two after the passing of the Dáil Eireann Loans and Funds Bill, or the passing of the Second Reading of a Bill in which Deputy Cosgrave pointed out that in any considerable company the first year or two were very difficult and that the financial statement and balance sheet of any company of the kind issued after the first year or two or three would never reveal the actual position; that it would almost inevitably show losses, and would thereby prejudice the public in that respect as to the realities of the case.

Deputy Cosgrave pointed that out in regard to the Bill we had before us yesterday, and it is important when dealing with the matter to have that kind of statement from ex-President Cosgrave, the Leader of the Opposition. That is a thing that is perfectly well known and accepted by those interested in financial matters and shows, completely, how insincere it was to use the annual meeting of theIrish Press to the detriment of the Minister in reference to this Bill. It shows how insincere all that criticism was. The liability of the State for these bonds is admitted on all hands. The obligation to introduce the Bill, as soon as certain procedure had been completed, was admitted on all hands. The demands of the American Government that that obligation should be fulfilled had been received, and to my mind that is a complete answer to all the criticism that is being levelled against the Government.

Cathaoirleach

The Minister to conclude.

I do not intend to delay the Seanad very long because I do not think that any fresh criticism has been uttered. I think the speech of Senator Johnson has dealt fairly effectively with the suggestion of Senator Douglas. We are committed, and our predecessors were committed, to repay this loan immediately the receivers would get their discharge from the American courts. We are equally committed by our pledges, by the undertaking given by the President in response to the inquiry from the representative of the American Government accredited to our Government. It seems to me that these are undertakings which could not, particularly in present circumstances, be departed from in any way.

We are all aware of the attempts which have been made to misrepresent our attitude in regard to the land annuities and other payments made to Great Britain. Throughout this dispute we have proclaimed that our attitude was this: that if it could be shown to us that these moneys were rightly due, or if any tribunal in which we had confidence or any tribunal before which the representatives of the Irish people might justly plead without in any way foregoing the essential principles of independence for which an Irish Government must stand—without, I may say, even departing from the attitude which had been taken up by our predecessors who were much less committed in that regard than we are—if any tribunal of that sort were to find that these moneys were due by us to Great Britain, then we should immediately pay.

Here is a case in which there is no dispute about the debt. Our predecessors accepted the obligation; we accept it, and it only remains for us, no matter how difficult our circumstances may be, to discharge that debt and to honour those obligations with the utmost expedition. Difficult and all as our circumstances are, no one can say that our present position is so straitened that we cannot afford to pay interest at the rate of 3½ per cent. upon the bonds which we shall issue, and that we cannot afford, if we have to borrow the money at that or even a higher rate, to find the £15,000 or £20,000 per annum that is necessary to discharge our commitments in that regard.

The whole matter is this: whether we deliberately, in front of all the allegations and charges that have been made against us, are going to give substance and foundation for those charges by repudiating what is above everything else, a moral obligation, a moral obligation which has been made a legal obligation, not merely by the Act of the present Government, but by the Dáil Eireann Loans and Funds Act which was passed by our predecessors in 1924.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 25th July, 1933.
The Seanad adjourned at 10.40 p.m. until Tuesday, 25th July at 3 p.m.