This is the annual Army Bill. It comes before the Oireachtas each year. I had hoped at this time last year to introduce a Bill this year which would be a complete amendment of the existing Army Act. Unfortunately the Bill had not reached the stage at which it could be introduced. I hope, however, before the expiration of the period provided by this Bill, to introduce a Bill amending the whole Army Act.
Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1934—Second Stage.
Is this the entire explanation we are to have from the Minister before the debate takes place?
Apparently. The Minister made his statement in introducing the Bill and it will be for him to deal with any questions raised when he is closing the debate.
I can quite understand that procedure. The responsible Minister has the right and duty to conclude a debate, to explain any point upon which information is sought and to counter any criticism which may appear to him to be without justification. While that is a Minister's right and duty, it is not fair to this House to adopt that course, especially when the Bill before us comprehends something which was not embodied in Defence Forces Bills since the Act of 1923 became law. The Minister having refrained from making any explanation, one is in a quandary as to how to proceed to discuss the Bill. I think it is pertinent to refer to the new force which is in process of formation. Under the Defence Forces Act, which is being continued under this Bill, the Minister has power to go back upon this enterprise. I should like the Minister, when replying, to state under what section of the Act of 1923, which is now being continued, power is given him to proceed with the formation of this new force. That question was put in the other House but I cannot find that definite information was tendered in reply. This is one of the reasons why I consider that the Central Fund Bill could have been dealt with with greater advantage before this Bill. The formation of this new force raises a large question of policy which, I think, would be more adequately dealt with on the Central Fund Bill than on this, more or less, technical Bill to enable the Minister's Department to bring its operations into compliance with statutory regulations.
I think we ought to have some explanation, and some very full explanation, from the Minister in regard to this new force. I may say I regret very much that there appears to be within the existing regulations and Acts, and in the Act we are now proposing to continue, power to enable the Minister to embark upon the formation of this particular new force. It is a subject, I think, of sufficient importance and sufficiently concerns State policy to warrant a definite and separate piece of legislation so that it could be examined closely in detail instead of being brought more or less in a casual way before us, as it is now. I think there is a very considerable question as to the wisdom of the step that has been taken, and I have even greater grounds for doubting the necessity for this force. I believe that if this new force had to be sanctioned by a special Bill, this House would have been very fully justified in rejecting that Bill, and would have got the general approval of the majority of the citizens of this State in doing so. We ought to know what particular purpose this force is to serve. I think that this House ought to realise, and make the Minister realise, that we are part of the Oireachtas and that he should explain here definitely what his proposals are.
Is this in order?
I do not see that the Senator is in any way out of order so far.
He is referring to something that happened a fortnight ago. I ask if it is in order to have a réchauffé of what happened here a fortnight ago?
I am referring to what has not yet happened here, as far as I am aware. In the other House the Minister explained and attempted to justify the formation of this new force. We are asked to pass this Bill without a word of explanation from the Minister, and without any information such as was given to the other House. I think we are entitled to demand full and satisfactory information from that point. We have had declarations from Ministers who, when in Opposition, deprecated expenditure on the Army. It is true that men rise on their dead selves to better things, and it may be that any discrepancy that exists between the attitude of members of the Government when they were in Opposition and when they took over office marked their transition from the baser to the higher altitudes of life. We are entitled to ask for some explanation of the extraordinary variations or contradictions in some of them. For instance, the President of the Executive Council in 1931 speaking as Leader of the Opposition on the 18th of March, said:
"Looking at the Estimates this year we find that the Army and Army Pensions Estimates reached the old figure of £1,600,000. The Estimate for the Civic Guards is at the old figure of £1,600,000. We ask the Minister whether he really believes that the cost of these services cannot be reduced without really reducing efficiency and without interfering with the purpose for which these services are maintained. We believe that any purpose for which the Army could be justified could be achieved at the cost of not more than £1,000,000 a year. We believe that within that figure you could provide the Army services which are needed here at the present time. There is in that item alone an opportunity of making an economy of £600,000 a year."
That was in 1931 when President de Valera was Leader of the Opposition. I find that the Army Estimates, as published in the White Paper a few days ago, are given as £1,476,731. Have the military exigencies and the military interests of this State changed so much in that time that while the then Leader of the Opposition and now President of the Executive Council thought that £1,000,000 would be sufficient for a total expenditure on the Army we must now have £1,400,000 odd? I presume President de Valera on that occasion spoke with the fullest assent and cognisance of his Party. I want to know what has changed in this State that the attitude of the then Leader of the Opposition has so radically altered. We are entitled to have that explained. We are entitled to know why if this £600,000 could be saved in 1931, it is impossible to consider any such economy at the present time, and instead to enter upon the formation of a new force which involves additional expenditure.
I have no doubt, if I had time to take the trouble, I could have found similar statements by other Ministers on the same matter, but I had intended to reserve any comments I had to make on this particular Bill and the matters pertaining to it until I had heard the speech of the Minister explaining the Bill. I made no preparation for the discussion of this Bill, but only keeping myself more or less informed. It is difficult now to make a definite and conclusive argument one way or another in the absence of the Minister's statement. We are entitled to have, first of all, an explanation of this contradictory and conflicting attitude now on the part of the present head of the Government as to these matters and when he spoke as Leader of the Opposition in 1931. These rival and contradictory opinions in these two years were, I am sure, shared by the present Minister for Defence, and so, therefore, if there is an explanation he should be able to furnish it for this extraordinary change of opinion. Then we want some justification for the new force and the manner in which it has been inaugurated. We have had a lot of denunciation of the idea of a private army in this State and all kinds of alarms have been sounded as to the danger of such things. So far as every impartial and detached citizen can view these matters, it would seem that the new force is a private army got up at the expense of the Saorstát taxpayer. If there is one thing that it is important to secure in this State, and one thing above everything else that is desirable, it is to keep any tinge of Party politics from entering into the forces of the State. If there was one thing that seemed to give a direct Party bias to the new force it was the way in which some 20 gentlemen were enrolled to inaugurate the recruitment of that force. I have read the statements of the Minister in the other House, and outside the House, that this new force was to be kept above politics——
Is it in order to discuss this matter when the Bill is not before the House?
The Senator is in order.
I can quite realise that Senator Moore would love me to be ruled out of order on this particular point. I have read the statements of the Minister speaking about this new force when he said that one of the functions of the new force was to be the bringing together of old comrades who had been separated by the bitterness of the civil war. I think it is questionable, indeed, if this particular form of organisation is the most desirable or the most effective for that class of objective, and if that is the policy of the Minister or his Government can anyone reconcile such a policy and such an objective with the definite promise of securing as the 20 men to organise the force in its initial stages, 20 men who went out and took up arms against the State and for all we know are still animated with the same desire to smash it? This is a serious question of policy and it certainly necessitates a much fuller explanation than the mere formal comment of the Minister on this stage of the Vote. If there is one thing I make no pretence about, though speaking for a certain political Party and in the interests of a political aspect of life in this country, I have, since this State came into existence, always stood for the existence of this State and for the belief that it was something above Parties, and for that I still stand and it is because I am apprehensive that a certain political Party now in power by accident of circumstances and as a result of promises which they themselves, when they do not try to ram them down the throats of the ignorant, cynically disavow. It is regarded as a joke to remind Ministers of the promises they made which secured them power. Does any citizen of this State believe that if, when they first sought power, instead of going to the electors with the plea that they were going to reduce taxation by £2,000,000 they were going to present them two years afterwards with an increase of £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 or perhaps more, that they would have been returned to power? It is only fools or knaves who would pretend such simplicity. Because I believe they secured power under false pretences and false promises and that they are still wedded to the ideas which they proclaimed before they came into power of smashing the State and because they are using inside, devious and questionable methods to secure the smashing of the State which they failed to secure outside that I demand and insist upon a full and satisfactory explanation from the Minister of the purpose and the necessity for the new force before this Bill passes this House.
Arising out of the statement of Senator Milroy with regard to the establishment of this new army or volunteer force, and the area administrative officers, I think they call them, I might state what actually happened in fact with regard to one of them from the point of view of the freedom of this force from politics. In my part of the country—Wexford—the man chosen by the Government to organise this force in the Leinster area was sent for to Australia. He arrived in this country, I believe, on January 31, and he was met at Rosslare by the combined forces of Fianna Fáil and the I.R.A. with a great flourish of trumpets. For almost three weeks he attended functions, dances, and receptions which were organised by the same parties, making himself as one of them. He went on a political platform to a meeting organised by Fianna Fáil and the I.R.A., and addressed the meeting with a Fianna Fáil member. When I read the Minister's public statement about the new army, I was amazed when I saw he had said that it was to be organised on strictly non-political lines, knowing as I did what was happening as regards the leaders, and what was also said, that these men had finished their training. Now that statement was made less than a month after this man about whom I am speaking arrived in the country, had finished his training and was surrounded by his friends of the I.R.A. and Fianna Fáil recruiting for this supposedly non-political force. These are actual facts which I can prove, and I think they are sufficient answer to the Minister's claim that this is a non-political army.
The Minister gave us a very long explanation, but I suppose he said to himself that he had given all the explanation necessary in the other House and outside, and he assumed that we read our papers and the debates and that we would know all about them. That is the attitude he took up. Some time, but it does not look to be in our time, I fear, the country will come down to the necessity of facing the realities. We have had extraordinary unrealities since we started our independent career, and this new conception is only one more, but it happens to be really more senseless than any of the others from a military point of view and from a civilian point of view as well. The formation of this volunteer force which the Government has undertaken is unnecessary, undesirable and unreal, and in its present formation it is more or less useless. We are arming ourselves just at the time when everybody is cutting down arms and when the President of the Executive Council is at the head of the League of Nations. We are doing all we can do to set up a new and entirely unproductive luxury and we cannot afford that. If money is available as the result of tariffs and over-taxation in different directions, that money should be used towards levelling up the standard of living in the western counties, whose betterment has been entirely neglected by the present Government except that they have maintained the existence of the people by various charitable relief works to offset the damage done to trade as a result of what is called the economic war.
Another point: in a world war the question of neutrality would be exploded very quickly. We saw that in the case of Belgium. When some first-class Power applies proper, perhaps I should say serious pressure, in the way Germany applied pressure to Belgium, resistance is very easily overcome. The new force is supposed to be non-political and now I think there is not one suggestion that any person with experience of the wide world or of real military service in the field other than the guerilla warfare we undertook during the struggle for freedom, should co-operate in the formation of the force. No doubt that is done because it was decided to keep people of that type from cooperation in national affairs. The force itself is to wear a German steel helmet, a British field service cap, a French overcoat and American gaiters and, finally, it carries, of necessity, British rifles and bayonets, and unfortunately, to my regret, it has appeared in what is called the uniform of the Casement Brigade. Lastly, if Britain went to war I am perfectly certain 70 to 90 per cent. of the first line would be off to render service to Britain as quickly as ever they could as generations of Irishmen who have a sense of realities have done. The serious question is the fact that they are dressed in this particular uniform. It is sad to see young Irishmen who do not realise the rights and wrongs of things dressed in what is called the Casement uniform. I have asked a number of men of all ages did they know anything about the Casement uniform and I have got not one single answer either fully or partly full. It is just as well that these young fellows, and a great many fine young fellows too, should know before they wore it what are the circumstances of the formation of this brigade. Roger Casement, who was a prisoner when he undertook the formation of this brigade, was a British civil servant, serving for many years under the British Crown. He retired in 1913, was knighted and got various decorations, including the C.M.G. On his knighthood he wrote to Sir Edward Grey that he was much moved by the confidence which his Majesty's intention of conferring the order of knighthood implied and begged that his humble appreciation of the honour might be conveyed to his Majesty. Mark the word "confidence"! Later he seems to have become obsessed by the wrongs of his country and he went to Germany to see what he could do. The Germans, who cared not two hoots for this country, thought that he might be valuable and collected all the Irish prisoners of war at Limburg— over 1,000 at the camp—and gave him free access to them. Among them were men of my own regiment. Those men were offered liberty, the hospitality of the German Government and an increase of rations if they turned their coats and joined the Casement Brigade; and incidentally, to make things quite safe on both sides, they were promised £10 or £20 in the event of England winning the war and a free passage to America, so that they were secured both ways. I should say that this offer was made to large numbers of Irish mercenary soldiers who were fighting against the Germans, men who were worn by battle and privation, by hardship and wounds and, principally, by the misery of prison life. It was an immoral thing to do, particularly when we remember that it was done to men who were undoubtedly unhinged in their mental balance by privation and misery. But of all the men who were gathered at Limburg I think only 56 of them took this price and were fooled into this liberty as a result of Casement's suggestion. I think it is a great honour to the Irish race that so few did it; that so many realised that they had entered into a contract and, unlike some people in this country, they had a fine sense of honour in keeping it. On several occasions Casement had to be protected from the anger of his own countrymen. Incensed by his reception he on several occasions recommended that those who had spoken against his suggestions should be sent to prison camps and that their rations should be reduced.
Now it is on ideas such as these that we are attempting to found our new volunteer force. I can imagine the attitude which Sinn Féin would have taken to men who were confined in Arbour Hill or Kilmainham or in any other British prison if they had accepted the suggestion to change their coat and renege for liberty and better food. I admit it is difficult to follow the mental processes which change the attitude of mind of a man like Casement. I do not question for a second that at the moment he had a genuine desire to strike a blow for Ireland.
I think the Senator should let the dead alone.
I am afraid that the Minister himself raised it.
I think, Senator, we might cease discussing it now.
I have only a few words to say in criticism of the methods which were adopted. I come back now to my first point and I stress it. It is, that if national institutions are to be formed and based on false ideals, well then there is very little hope of their ultimate success.
As the Minister told us nothing in his opening statement, would it be in order if he were to intervene now—not to close the debate —but so that we might hear his attitude to the many important questions that were raised?
As the Minister has already made his opening statement, I can only allow him to close the debate when he rises to speak.
I would like to make it perfectly clear to Senators, as I have attempted to do on one or two previous occasions, that I am against all soldiering. I am a pacifist pure and simple. I thoroughly disapprove of all armies. I agree with a statement the President made some years ago that the strength of the Army here could be reduced. I should have thought that every patriotic person would be glad to see it gradually reduced. I think nobody really could object to the attitude the President took up in 1931 on this question, but instead of acting on the statement that he then made we now find he is adding to the number of the soldiers in the country. In my opinion, one of the things that we have to suffer from here is the delusion that the highest form of existence in this world is soldiering. The Irish have been flattering themselves that they are born soldiers. Well I will leave it at that, but I would not train them as soldiers. Senators know what we are doing now. We are giving these young men a trade for which we have no use in Ireland, at least I hope so. We may have, but I would sincerely regret it and I am perfectly satisfied that everyone in this House would regret it. Since we are giving them a trade for which they will have no use, what are we going to do with them? Make wild geese of them. Do Senators think that is a desirable thing from the Irish national point of view? I certainly do not.
I think that one of the most patriotic things that all sides in this country could strive for is to lessen that anxiety for military glory that seems to obsess large numbers of our youth. There is no prospect that we will have to fight anyone but ourselves, and, unfortunately, we are quick enough to do that. From the psychological point of view, I think this measure is one that is very likely to be injurious to the youth of Ireland, because the effect of it will be to impress on their minds the honour and the glory of a military life, forgetting altogether the hardships of that life, and that in many countries where military service is taken the soldier's pay is very poor indeed. If we examine the records of our own countrymen, of the wild geese from this country, we will realise how objectionable it is to try and hold up before youngsters the glory of a military life.
I would not like to agree with either of the two Senators who have spoken before me. I think that we must have an adequate defence force in this country. Nobody can say what the future will bring, and nobody can say that there is any country that will not be called upon to defend itself. I do not think that it is a really convincing argument to point out that a small country cannot have an army that will stand up to the army of a big country. If a country is small, and if its resources are meagre, then the treasures from the material point of view, at any rate, that the army is called upon to defend are relatively small. What it is possible to have is a defence force proportionate to the material things that have to be defended, and generally, I think, if there is going to be an attack on a country from any angle it is going to have some sort of a material basis. Therefore, I personally should not see any objection to the formation of a volunteer force here.
As I have said, nobody can foresee what the future may bring. I would be glad to see a volunteer force here if it were to be a national force and were to be a non-political force. Why I feel that we cannot let this Bill pass without question is because of my own uncertainty—I might put it stronger than that—about the volunteer force that is being formed. This Bill, I think, must be passed by the Seanad. The Army Act, under which Army discipline is maintained, and under which the Army operates, expires at the end of this month, I think. The Bill is introduced at a point which leaves us very little time for the framing of amendments. Year by year this Bill is passed without amendment, and I do not suppose that any question of amendment would arise until the Minister was able to introduce a permanent measure if it had not been for the steps that have recently been taken. I think these steps, at any rate, give us ground for considering the introduction of restrictive amendments to this Bill.
I would be glad to see a volunteer force formed if it were formed on a strictly national and non-political basis. The Minister has announced, and the official attitude taken is, that the Government desires this force to be non-political, but acts speak more plainly than words, and I am afraid that the acts of the Government and the particular steps that they have taken indicate that the intention is to create a political army, an army which will give allegiance to them beyond the allegiance that an army owes to the constitutional Government of the State. I do not know whether it is intended to create a new force on a political basis to replace the existing Army which is a loyal and a constitutional Army, but if the Government had wanted to form a non-political volunteer force, such as anybody who takes the general view about defence that, for instance, I, and I think the majority of the citizens of the State take, they would not have taken 20 men with the records of the 20 officers who have been placed in charge of the formation of this Army. They have had guerilla experience of sorts, but these men have not had the training or experience to make them fit for the uniforms or the commissions of regular officers. It would have been preferable if they had selected officers from the regular Army and had put them in charge, or if they felt that they could not take officers who had served in the civil war against the I.R.A. then there are quite a lot of young officers who have gone into the Army in the last five or six years, who could have been selected: men who were university graduates or who had passed Civil Service examinations, men of capacity who have received since they went into the Army the professional training which would have enabled them to take charge of this particular work.
I want to go even a step further about meeting the Government point of view. If they felt that they must bring in men like these, they should not have chosen as area administration officers from this type of men. At least they would have mixed them, or made them half and half. They would not have put into positions such as these, people that many decent young men would not like to be under in the Army; who would not demean themselves by going in, because they would not like to serve under or to be in contact with them. That is the position. Whatever the Government may say in words, their acts are designed to get into this force all those who are in political sympathy with them. They have got these 20 men, who will select recruits, form committees, and run the whole show as far as they are capable of running it. It seems that we can give no other reading to what the Government has done than that its intention is not to have a constitutional Army, which would do its duty by any Government, but a force created at the public expense, a new political force, a sort of new I.R.A. I think that is a very serious danger and that it cannot be let pass without notice. It makes us, in doing our duty, consider whether we will not amend a Bill which gives the Minister power to carry on this force. If he does not give us an undertaking to amend the Bill, so that this force will not be run in that way, I do not know that we should not take steps to prevent him running it at all, unless it is to be run in the interests of true freedom.
This debate is taking a rather surprising turn. This Bill is one to continue in force the Army Act. I do not regret anything that has been said in the course of the debate except what has been said by the last speaker. So far as I can remember, the idea of all Nationalists from 1916 to the present time was to have this country defended by a voluntary force. We were told that a standing army in the continental sense or in the Imperial sense was entirely unsuited to this country, that the cheapest and the best method of defending an island like this so far as it could be defended, was to have a voluntary force that would be able to give a good account of itself in case of invasion, that would so conduct itself that it would not be worth while for the greater nations to attack us again. That is what we have been taught, and I think it is sound policy. In pursuance of that policy a voluntary force is being organised. What are the objections that have been raised in the course of this debate? I will start with the objections raised by Senator Miss Browne. Apparently she objects to one officer.
No, to all.
Well, to the officer in the Senator's local area. Had she always the same objection to him?
Up to 1920 and 1921 did she not regard him as an efficient soldier, fighting for the independence of the country?
On a point of explanation. May I say that this man was never heard of until certain activities of the Irregulars made it profitable for people to come in?
He has an area in the proposed new force. In any case, before there was any trouble he was a well-known man there. There is no reason why he should not have charge of an area in regard to the volunteer force, having regard to the fact that he is more experienced perhaps than regular Army officers, of how a volunteer force for purposes of defence should be organised. Take the next objection, that of Senator The McGillycuddy. His objection, so far as I could understand it, is that officers who served in other armies have not been appointed. I would like to know whether any of the gentlemen who served in other armies have sought employment in this volunteer force. Senator The McGillycuddy is a soldier.
On a point of explanation, I said that no person with experience of warfare other than the warfare that took place in this country had been asked to co-operate in the formation of the force.
"Asked to co-operate?" Does the Senator mean that he should have been asked to advise the Government as to the organisation of the new force, simply because he was a great officer in the army of another country? If the Senator had come forward with such a suggestion, I am perfectly certain that it would be received with the respect that it deserved. But that is no real objection to this measure, which is a National measure. There was talk about uniforms. I am sure the uniforms selected are suitable and are good uniforms. I will not go into the question of the Casement Brigade. Perhaps the Minister will deal with that. Lastly, I come to what Senator Blythe said. The Senator perfectly fairly said that he agreed with the establishment of a volunteer force; that he agrees that we should have a force to defend the territory of this country; and because we are a small nation, that is no reason why we should be a defenceless nation. Coming from a man in his position, what he said is rather serious. Before the force is organised at all he cast a reflection upon it. I am sure he has fully considered what the effect of his words might be, to cast a reflection on the 20 men who have been appointed to organise the various districts. These are men with considerable experience of the class of warfare which an Irish Army would be expected to wage against a powerful invading force.
What is it?
Guerilla warfare. They might not alone be shot by machine guns but be poisoned by gas. I am sure the Senator knows many of these men. I know a few of them. I think they are good men. I do not know of any young recruit in Ireland to whom it would not be an honour to associate with some of these men. There is where I take exception to what Senator Blythe said. It is the only thing that pained me in the course of the debate, that these 20 men are not good enough to be associated with raw recruits in the volunteers. I thoroughly agree with what Senator Blythe said that this volunteer force should be a national force, that it should be a non-political force. No volunteer force is any good unless it is national. I hope it will not be influenced or actuated by Party politics. We have an example in the police force that was recruited by the Government which preceded this Government, and also in the Army. We have there an example of loyalty to the State. These forces were recruited under the Government of which Senator Blythe was a leading member. Why should he not give to his opponents credit for the same sentiments, for the same line of conduct, and for the same results as those pursued in the previous ten years? There is no reason to suppose that a volunteer force composed of young men will not be national first and national always.
If they were given a chance they will be.
Before Senator Blythe made the charge that he made in the course of a rather impassioned ending to his speech, he should have been more specific. Has he an objection to any man? What can he say of any of the 20 men who are in charge of this force? I am sure he will not deny that they are good soldiers. He has not denied that any one of them is not a man of the highest character. I think it is unfortunate that at this stage, and without descending to particulars, Senator Blythe should have made a general attack against this new force. It is a terrible thing. It is wrong to attack or to belittle in advance men who are expected to perform public services. If they are found to be wrong, or if any fault can be found with them in the discharge of their duties, then is the time to come before Parliament to challenge them or their actions. On the Second Reading debate Senators ought to think better of it, and should not risk discussing this Bill any further than is necessary.
There is one thing the Senator said that makes it clear I should explain my position to the House. When I was dealing with these officers I was not dealing with anything connected with their private characters. I was dealing with their public acts in the past.
I should like the Minister, when replying, to deal, if he can, more or less with the point of military technique raised by the last speaker. I spent a good many years of my life in the army, and I cannot quite appreciate the special qualifications that Senators suggest are required from these officers for training a voluntary force. Whenever it was my duty to deal with men of a volunteer character, I always sought men experienced in military technique, who had been well grounded in discipline, and who spent many years in an organised force, to train raw levies. It seems an extraordinary doctrine that men should be selected whose military experience has been of an entirely guerilla character. I am not dealing with the political section at the moment. I hope the Minister will deal with this matter from the point of view of military science. I would like if he would give some idea of the contemplated organisation, or if it is going to be really a guerilla force. I can conceive something on the lines of the Boers in South Africa, or of some of the old American systems where the men kept their rifles in their own homes, being likely to be summoned for service at any moment. Is that the intention? If not, how is it proposed the arms should be held? In view of the rather disturbed conditions and in view of the possibility of other political armies, I think we should like to know how the arms of the new force are to be held.
I want to touch upon a somewhat different aspect of this question. The Minister drew attention to the fact that this is a Bill to re-enact the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1923. Quite frequently I have called attention to the fact that this Act of 1923, containing 246 sections and eight or nine schedules, was passed without five minutes' discussion in either Dáil or Seanad, and has been passed, year by year, without amendment, on periodical promises to introduce a permanent Army Bill. I do not know in how many years that promise has been repeated, but it has been repeated very frequently since 1923. Though that Bill has been passed every year for 11 years, Senator Blythe comes along, and because he has a serious criticism of the administration to make, suggests that the Act itself should not pass without amendment. This is the middle of March, and quite obviously, the Act could not be amended so as to become law before the end of March. After the end of March, there would be no authority to enforce discipline in the Army. Senator Blythe is aware of that. It was the practice of the last Government to bring the annual Army Bill before the Seanad later than this date. It was seldom brought here before the first or second week of March, and occasionally it was brought later. I hope that the Seanad will realise that, if Senator Blythe's suggestion is carried out, on and after the 31st March there will be no authority to enforce discipline in the Army. I daresay that would commend itself to Senator Milroy.(Interruption.) The Blue Shirts and the I.R.A. would line up and, I suppose, the various propagandists of the two bodies would attempt to rally the disbanded Army into their respective force.
The Blue Shirts are not an army.
They would not have arms.
I take it that it would be an army then. The Minister said, repeating the promises of his predecessors, that he had hoped to introduce a permanent Bill before this continuation Bill was brought in. I ask him not to embody in the new Bill a provision which will enable him to do what he has done in the way of forming a volunteer reserve in this manner and as was done by his predecessor in forming the other volunteer reserve which, I suppose, fulfilled all the conditions that Senator Blythe suggests should be fulfilled in forming a volunteer force, but failed. It is not with the point of failure that I want to deal. I want to raise an objection to giving power to the Minister in any new Act, as power is given in this Act of 1923, to form, under a regulation, a volunteer reserve force by enrolling men in the Army for ten minutes, making them soldiers, and then transferring them immediately to the reserve. That was the procedure adopted by the predecessor of the Minister, and this House approved of that procedure. The present Minister has followed out that procedure. I think it is a wrong procedure. I think that a bad precedent was established, and I hope that power will not be taken in the next permanent Bill to do such a thing in the future.
I raised this matter in 1930 and Senator Milroy was very strongly in favour of the procedure then adopted by the ex-Minister for Defence. I think that it is shown now, from the criticism levelled against this new force, that the criticism I advanced then as to procedure was well founded. The proposal to form a new army or a new branch of the Army should come before the Oireachtas in a formal manner before the event and not after the event. The procedure adopted in 1930 has been followed by the Minister. In both cases, I think it was bad procedure and I hope that power to do such a thing in the future will not be taken in the new permanent Bill.
I take it that the Government justifies the formation of this new army owing to the possible necessity for such a force in the event of invasion, when the next great war takes place. Have they given any consideration to the fact that most countries are now coming to regard the aerial weapon as one of the principal weapons of defence? If any invasion of this country takes place, in the event of a great war, I fancy it will be in the form of air raids to break down the morale of the people, to destroy munition factories which might be supplying one of the combatants—I believe we are to have a munition factory here — or to destroy the Shannon electrical scheme so that the electrical energy of the State would be put out of commission. What effective reply can a guerilla army offer to attacks of that kind? If we are going to spend a considerable amount of money for defence purposes, we should spend it in the way that is going to give us the best and most effective return. I should imagine that the development of our air force and expenditure upon that arm of most of the money that is to be devoted to the maintenance of this volunteer force would give a far better return to the State if we are considering, mainly, the question of national defence.
I agree with those who say that when you are selecting officers to train a new army of that kind, you should have regard to more than patriotic sentiment or so-called national outlook. Surely, anybody who joins an army is going to carry out the instructions of his superiors and is going to discharge the function for which he was employed. Granted the patriotic sentiment, there should be some regard to the military capacity and experience of those entrusted with the charge of that army, unless we are to have an army which will be a greater menace than a means of protection. When one hears of this extraordinary arrangement of local or parochial committees throughout the country entering into the management of the Army, one feels as the Duke of Wellington did when he saw the recruits sent out to him. He said: "They filled me with terror."
They beat Napoleon.
They helped to do that but it was only after a tremendous amount of damage was done. There may be precedents for this arrangement. I know little or nothing about military matters. It is the first time I heard of local committees, which may develop into little pothouse political establishments, entering into the management of an army or in any way influencing the control of an army entrusted with national defence. The greater the centralisation the less risk in matters of that kind. I see no cause for jubilation in the multiplication of our military forces and the scattering of arms throughout all parts of the country. Little dogs have long tails and little countries generally have bigger armies than they can well support. You have only to look at Europe to see the wretched condition of the people of many countries which are maintaining huge armies. Men learn to fight in these countries before they learn to work. In places such as the Balkans, the women have to do the work which the men should be doing, while the men are capering around in uniform anl learning how to destroy human life. I am sorry to see that we are developing this military spirit, thinking that we are achieving some great and noble idea.
The resistance that we can offer to any country that will contemplate attacking us will, in any case, be rather of a minor character. I agree that we should make it expensive for any invader who would attempt to encroach upon our territory or upon our rights but I doubt if the best method of effecting that purpose is to organise an Army trained, in the main, by men with no real military training themselves, men who have been recruited in circumstances which may cause a certain amount of professional jealousy to develop between themselves and officers of the standing Army. To allow local committees of laymen, recruited ad hoc, to enter into or have any voice in the management or control of that Army is a rather dubious method of ensuring national defence. Conditions in this country at the moment are not and for some time past have not been such as would make it desirable to scatter arms throughout the country, even though they may be contained in barracks, halls or sheds or whatever other conveniences are to be supplied. I seriously urge upon the Minister that he should exercise the absolute maximum of caution and conservatism as regards the distribution of these arms. Too many risks are taken at the present time. Lives have been foolishly wasted for the sake of a rusty old rifle or revolver. If you have hundreds of rifles stacked here, there and everywhere throughout the country, you can imagine what will happen. It will be a simple matter for any organisation, having the will to do so, to make a concentrated raid on these halls on a particular night, thus disarming the new Army and creating a new menace in the country. We are at the beginning of this business and it is better to look ahead now than to make mistakes which will be very difficult to remedy afterwards.
I want to protest against the contemptible speech made by Senator The McGillycuddy. I think that a soldier, at any rate, should content himself with slandering the living and should not go on to slander the dead. Sir Roger Casement was one of the greatest and most honourable Irishmen who have ever lived. He could not be bought by the British. At all times during his life, he stood for what he thought was right. He stood up for the rights of the natives of South Africa, when he thought he should stand for them, against all comers. When he thought that this country, in 1914, should get the freedom that England was mouthing about in respect of Belgium, he stood for this country. In the course of organising this country to fight for its rights, he went to Germany and there asked the young men who were fooled into the British Army to fight for the freedom of small nations, to join his brigade and to fight for the freedom of one small nation—their own country. I do not think that any soldier or any statesman or any decent man—Englishman or anybody else—could see anything immoral in that. It is only the illegitimate type of Irishman we have in this country that could see anything wrong in an Irishman fighting for his rights.
There were a lot of points raised here to-day that have already been dealt with. The first is as to why no long statement was made at the opening of the debate. It is not usual to do that. This Bill has been introduced one year after another for ten years. I informed the House it was an annual Bill. Certain questions are asked now about the volunteer force. There should be no necessity to answer them because they have been answered 1,000 times, and any Senator taking an intelligent interest in public affairs should be able to answer them himself. First of all, I say this, if the recruits for this new force are confined to one of the two Parties, it is not our fault. In spite of the activities of Senator Blythe, and those associated with him, we have endeavoured to get all shades of opinion into the volunteer force. We have succeeded, in spite of Senator Blythe, in getting on the sluagh committee men representing the United Ireland Party and the Fianna Fáil Party and all other grades. We got them in spite of the fact that their leaders in the Seanad give them a wrong lead. One of our greatest national necessities is for a real efficient military force in this country under the control of the representatives of the people. It may be costly, but the evils that may arise from lack of such a force might be much more costly. Taken from the point of view of national discipline or national defence against foreign aggression, the volunteers, coupled with the Army, will form the most effective defence force possible.
Senator O'Farrell talked about concentration only on an air force, and he was applauded by Senator Sir John Keane. The fact is, I am advised, that in order thoroughly to protect this country against an attack by 100 aeroplanes you could not guarantee success against such an onslaught without having 1,000 planes of the same type engaged in the defence.
You could have a raid in turn.
You could have a raid with a much smaller force. There is one thing that we can guarantee with this new force that if any foreigner tries to put his foot on this soil against the will of the people, this country is going to make it damned hard for him and he will be glad enough to get out of it. I believe the regular Army, coupled with the volunteer force, gives an ideal combination for this purpose.
There were 20 officers commissioned recently. We had a lot of lectures here to-day about the fact that we were starting a political force. There are some people in this country who think that in order to be fair we must invite our political opponents into everything that is going. I do not see any reason why, if we think there are plenty of men well fitted for any particular job we should not appoint them, even if they are supporters of the Government. These men were not asked whether they were supporters of the Government or not.
You did not know it?
Some of them have been neutral for a number of years. They did not support any side, but they were men who helped to beat England, and when it is asked what are their special qualifications I say there are 20 men who helped to beat the British Army during the Black and Tan war, and that is good enough qualification for me. Senator O'Farrell spoke of the sluagh committee. The only function of the sluagh committee is to give advice in the running of the local halls. They are not going to have charge of the volunteers. The volunteers are organised in three lines. You have the young men between 18 and 25 who will come in and spend a fortnight every year for five years on a local campaign and, in addition, 30 or 40 additional periods in the year. That first line will not be organised on a war basis except for their annual training or, if called on, general mobilisation. When out for annual training they will be organised in companies and battalions in the local regiments that cover two or three counties. It is only then they will be organised on a war basis.
The second and third line are the two reserves from the first. The local sluagh committee is akin to similar committees existing in America and everywhere you have a territorial force. They give advice as to records; they take charge of the different inter-sluagh competitions, rifle shooting, football or hurling or whatever they may be. Generally they arrange for employers to allow volunteers off at a time suitable for training, and all that class of work, but from the military point of view they have no charge whatever over the volunteers. The volunteers will be controlled by officers over them in the ordinary way appointed by the Minister for Defence. The 20 officers we have appointed are 20 out of a total of about 500 that are to control the volunteer force as well as the regular Army. The volunteers are not a separate army; they are an integral part of the national forces controlled by the Minister, by the headquarters staff and other senior officers down the line. The 20 administrative officers who are appointed are not in charge of the volunteer war organisation. There are 20 officers of the regular Army that have been given regular Army commissions and they can be changed from that to other work. They are not acting on their own. They are acting under an executive officer with the rank of commandant in each military district. They are acting with the assistance of every Army officer attending to that work. There are 50 officers organising the volunteers and not the 20 newly appointed, as some people appear to believe. Senator O'Farrell and somebody else spoke about the control of the Army. We are not so foolish as to throw rifles all around the place at the present time. The volunteers for the beginning, until things settle down, use some miniature rifles to train. Their real training will be done when they are called up in the ordinary way for a fortnight or a month each year. The organisations are not going to be scattered around the country into different sluagh halls or small posts, and they will be concentrated with the existing or ordinary force. I do not agree with a group of Senators who said we should do nothing while other countries are talking about the reduction of armaments to arm ourselves here.
What is the situation in Europe at present? Every country is spending twice as much on its military forces as in 1926. The same as everybody else, I would like to see international questions settled by conference and argument, and if somebody is going to settle them by force I do not want to be in a defenceless position. I agree with Senator Blythe and Senator O'Hanlon and other Senators who admit that we could make it a costly proposition for any country to interfere with us here if we set ourselves to do it. In a broadcast speech a few nights ago I appealed to the young men to come forward and join this force. I said it was a non-political force, and was to obey any Government elected by the people. I pointed out that if they did that the volunteers would be the people's bulwark against internal disturbance and their best guard against external aggression. I believe that, and I believe that any reasonable man who looks upon the situation in the country will say we require a force that is going to be set up to give an example to the young people down the country as to how they should behave. I believe, from the reports I have already received, that a decent type of young men are coming along and offering their services. I think that it is much better they should be doing that under State direction, ready to give their services to any Government selected by the people rather than they should be at each other's throats on dark nights. I believe also from the point of view of this country vis-a-vis with other countries, it is probably a useful national work that we are doing in organising a volunteer force that will accommodate itself clearly in the cheapest and most effective way so that this country cannot be invaded with impunity.
It is desired that the Committee Stage of this Bill should be taken when we next meet. Might I suggest to the House that in view of the near approach of Holy Week and the possibility of some rather controversial Bills coming up next week we should meet on Tuesday. (Agreed). On Tuesday then we will take the Central Fund Bill; it is a Money Bill, and possibly will be finished that day. We should also try to finish the Control of Imports Bill on Tuesday and the other Bills on Wednesday.