Public Business. - Censorship of Parliamentary Debates—Motion.

I move the following motion, standing in my name and in that of Senator Douglas:—

That the Seanad views with concern the action of the Government in preventing the publication in the Press of a report of certain proceedings of the Seanad of Wednesday, 6th December, 1944, and requests information as to the grounds under which the Government claims the right to interfere with the Constitutional provision that sittings of each House of the Oireachtas shall be public.

The motion on the Order Paper arises out of certain proceedings in this House on the 6th December last. I was not present for these proceedings and had no knowledge of them; and, indeed, it would be fair to say that I had no interest in them. I have no knowledge of any kind as to the merits of the question that was raised on the 6th December last, but what I do want to raise in this connection is that although certain proceedings took place in this House, the newspapers were prevented from making or publishing any reference to those proceedings. Not only was censorship exercised against part of the proceedings, but the whole proceeding itself was censored. That particular matter was raised by Senator Sir John Keane, very circumspectly and courteously. The Minister's reply was very brief, and is contained in column 713 of No. 5 of Volume 29 of the debates of this House, on 6th December, 1944. The Minister, in reply to Senator Sir John Keane, said:

"I have already informed Senator Sir John Keane that this is a security matter. He has cited certain facts in relation to two letters, which are correct. But, as it is a security matter, I regret very much that I cannot deal with it fully here."

I think we may say that that reply, although it is by no means informative, also is not discourteous, and I am quite prepared to admit that the Minister was quite within his rights in refusing to go into the matter further. I would also say that the Minister, under the powers he has received, is entitled to delete from newspaper reports, without any consultation with anybody, such parts of these reports as he thinks might in some way be harmful to our national security. We may, of course, differ with him about the desirability of deleting certain portions of such reports, but about his right to delete them, or his responsibility for answering as to the deletion of such portions, I do not think there can be any doubt. His right to do so would be quite admitted by every reasonable person, in our special circumstances at the moment, but what happened in this case was different. What happened in this case was that publication in the daily Press of proceedings in the Seanad was prevented, and I am at a loss to understand on what grounds such censoring took place.

I have, I suppose, a fair knowledge of public affairs in this country. A certain matter was raised by Senator Sir John Keane on the 6th December last, and I cannot see what was the reason for preventing publication of the fact that such a matter had been raised. We all know that there is a censorship and that letters coming from England, or going to England, as the case may be, are censored, and therefore anybody can deduce that some of these letters are completely stopped, and that that is the source of the revelations, if you can call them so, that we met with in the course of the debate on the last occasion. What I want to know is whether there were other factors, hidden from me or from other ordinary observers, governing the taking of what seems to me to be an extraordinary step in regard to the publication of the proceedings of this House. It is an extraordinary thing that a matter should be raised here to-night in this House or, let us say, in the other House, and that no reference to it should be found in the daily Press of the following day. When you arrive at that position, Sir, I think you are arriving at a position where a gross abuse of the privileges conferred on the censorship by emergency legislation is taking place.

In this connection, I may say that I speak entirely as a member of this House, and I think that Senators, generally, will agree that in anything that concerns this House or its privileges I have always endeavoured to observe and to try to keep intact the privileges of this House. Anybody who is interested in the development of the Seanad, as a House of the Oireachtas, will be in agreement with that. I only once found myself in disagreement with the Chair, and that was on an occasion when I thought a Minister had a right to make a statement which, in fact, he was not allowed to make. From that point of view, and also from the point of view of making for ourselves some place in the affairs of the country, I want to make this case. Article 15, sub-section 8 (1) of the Constitution provides that sittings of each House of the Oireachtas shall be public, but that, in cases of special emergency, either House may hold a private sitting with the assent of two-thirds of the members present. They may do so in cases of special emergency, but in normal times, according to the Constitution, the proceedings of either House of the Oireachtas must be public. The meaning of the word "public", there, is that some part of the proceedings, and all of them, if thought fit, may be published in the public press. So far as the proceedings on the 6th December last are concerned, the Minister has usurped that power, by which the assent of two-thirds of the members present should be given to the holding of a private sitting, and on that matter I want to take issue with him. The Constitution says that our sittings should be public, and that implies that the proceedings should be published in some form or another, or that, otherwise, the assent of two-thirds of the House must be given to a private sitting. Now, apparently, the Minister, by a stroke of the pen, so to speak, puts us into secret session without consulting anybody.

It seems to me that members of this House have responsibilities and duties and that it is actually the duty of a member of this House, when certain matters are brought to his notice, to raise them in the House. He has the right to do so, and I think it is also his duty to do so. When a matter is raised, and if the Minister concerned has a satisfactory reply to the charges that were made or in connection with the matters debated, the public has a right to know that the matter has been raised.

There can be no doubt about that, apart from the gravity of the matter that may have been raised, and I feel that the public should not be deprived of the knowledge that a certain thing had been raised in the Seanad, no matter what the reply might have been, and I am very much afraid that if such a thing were allowed to happen, as has happened in this case, it might be extended very much further and members of this House or the other House, as a result, might not be given the opportunity of showing that they were performing their public duties in raising such matters in the House.

That, in essence, is my case. We have adopted a Parliamentary system here, and the essence of that Parliamentary system is publicity in regard to our proceedings. Of that, I am sure, there can be no doubt whatever. You cannot have a democracy in secret. You can have an autocracy in secret or a dictatorship in secret, but the essence of any Parliamentary system is that there should be publicity for its proceedings. While it is admitted that during a war there may be certain parts of the proceedings which might not be suitable for publication, I cannot understand how it can be argued that the whole of the proceedings must be deleted. I would like to say that the Minister exercised his powers under the Emergency Powers Act and that Act was given to him with very great good will by all sections of the Dáil and Seanad when the war broke out in September, 1939.

I can remember that the Government produced this Bill and, after giving notice of it, tabled what is called a guillotine motion—that is, a motion which would prescribe, by a majority, of course, that certain things would have to be finished at certain times. Now, the Opposition of the time in the Dáil and here, at once said: "We recognise the necessity for emergency legislation and there is no need whatever to use a majority to get us to pass this Bill," and in one sitting the Dáil passed this emergency measure and the Seanad sat into the small hours of the morning to complete it.

Certain safeguards were suggested and certain assurances were given. One of the promises given as to censorship was that it would be a censorship of news and not of views. That point does not really arise now, but it may be well to raise it—because the practice has been that if something said in either House is not to appear in the Debates of the House, the Chairman of the House is to be consulted. It seems to me that what the Minister is doing now was never contemplated by any member of either House when the Bill was being passed——

Or by the Minister on that day.

——and I doubt if they were contemplated by the Minister himself. It may be said that all this talk about Parliament and so on is British. Mind you, the British have succeeded in their own country in establishing for themselves a very fine system of liberty, whatever they did in this country or to a particular man, and it is a very wrong thing that Irish liberty, having been vindicated in this country, should be used to destroy the liberty of members of either House, or to decrease the privileges of either House.

The Minister has, under the provisions of the Act, immense power. It has been well said by somebody that all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I would hate to see the Minister corrupted. I am endeavouring to improve the Minister's chance of preserving his virtue by not letting him be corrupted in this particular way——

Are you not late?

I do not want at this particular stage to enter into that. There is a time and place for everything. This is neither the time nor the place——

To discuss the virtues of either the Senator or the Minister?

I could make a grand reply to that, but no, I should rather not.

You can write it.

The fact is that the Constitution prescribes that our proceedings should be published, and we have a right under the Constitution to have our proceedings published. This act of the Minister, in this instance, runs right counter to those particular provisions of the Constitution, and the House itself should be alert to assert its rights, because this particular power could be applied not only to this House but to the other. It could be applied not only to the particular matter—of which I know nothing— raised by Senator Sir John Keane, but also applied to any matter raised by anybody in this House, or any number of members in this House, if the Minister thought fit to prevent the proceedings from being reported in the Press.

On those grounds, I move this motion, and I do ask members to take a detached view of it, not to take a Party view of it, but to regard it as a question which concerns the whole House and the privileges of the whole House, because if we cease to be interested in these things, and if we allow the privileges and powers of this House to be filched away, we are doing a bad day's work for ourselves, for liberty, and for the future of the country.

I put down this motion, therefore, because I do not understand how there could be any possible reason for preventing the public from knowing that letters going to England are censored, that something was stopped and that a Senator wanted to know in a particular case, not named, why that particular was stopped. I move the motion in the hope that the Minister will be able to give us some enlightenment as to the reasons actuating him in what seems to me to be a gross violation of the privileges of the Seanad.

I propose formally to second the motion, and to reserve my right to speak on it later.

Business suspended 6.15 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.

I move the amendment in my name:—

To delete the words "views with concern" and insert instead the word "condemns"; and to delete all words from the figures "1944" to the word "Constitutional" and substitute for the words deleted the words "in so much as such action is at variance with the".

I should like to congratulate, somewhat in a spirit of envy, Senator Hayes on the moderate terms in which he moved his motion. I wish I could use the same restraint or anything approaching it. I am told that the Scriptures say: "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." This offence against the privileges of Parliament took place on the 6th December, and I am afraid that, daily since that date, the sun has gone down upon my wrath. I really had to restrain myself and my friends have often had to restrain me regarding the almost passionate terms in which I desired to express myself regarding what, I think, the House will be satisfied is an outrage on our Parliamentary liberty. I was unable to accept the terms of Senator Hayes' motion because, if the English language means anything, I think those terms are not sufficiently emphatic for their purpose. If a person deals you a felon blow, surely you should feel something more than "grave concern". Here, we have a felon blow dealt at the privileges of Parliament and I consider that the terms of my amendment, which condemn the action of the Minister and relate it to the Article of the Constitution, are only reasonable. Moreover, this is not the Minister's first offence. This is the third time on which, with good cause, the Minister has been asked to explain to this House the reason for the manner in which the censorship is being administered. I have been an active party on all those occasions and I claim that I have done less than my duty in bringing those matters forward. On the first occasion, I dealt with the Minister's general attitude towards the Press— censorship not of Parliamentary debates but of general news. On the next occasion, we had that famous and disgraceful case about the book——

Those matters are not relevant to this motion.

No. I merely wanted to make a reference to them in passing. I shall not develop that question, but I may say that even one of the Minister's supporters was anxious on that occasion. On this occasion, we have the worst example of all. As I said, the Minister cannot claim to be a first offender. He is a persistent offender so far as his maladministration of the powers which Parliament gave him, with all goodwill, is concerned. I want to examine, at the outset, the legal aspect of this matter in relation to the powers the Minister possesses and the way he uses them, as distinct from the broader and wider political aspect of the case. For that purpose, I am afraid I shall have to weary the House somewhat, and take it back to the debates which took place when the Emergency Powers Bill was before the Oireachtas—first the Dáil and then this House—in September, 1939.

The future was then uncertain, very uncertain. We have passed through many anxious periods since then, but the dangers we have surmounted have largely allayed the apprehensions we then felt. I cannot help feeling that this is a strange time, when danger is far removed from our shores, to commit this outrage upon our liberties. When the Emergency Powers Bill was being debated in the Dáil, in September, 1939, the main concern was about the liberty of the person and essential supplies. But the question of the censorship did arise. Looking back, I cannot help feeling that it did not create the concern and apprehension that might have been expected. At that time, we were all anxious to co-operate, and we felt that the Government would use its powers reasonably. We were further justified in that feeling by the pledges we received. Giving expression to his desire to take Parliament into his confidence as much as possible, the Taoiseach said:

"We are just as anxious as the Opposition are to put our views before the public. A meeting of the Dáil, naturally, gives an opportunity to the Opposition to raise the particular doubts or anxieties that may be in the minds of the public, but it also gives us an opportunity of explaining here to the public,..."

I ask you to note the word "public".

"through our speeches, what are the reasons for any actions that we may take here, and we are just as glad to have these opportunities of explaining our position as the Opposition are."

Later on, in the same column, he said:

"It is to our interest, as the guardians of the public good, to have Deputies here and to have the public informed of developments in the way they can only be informed by discussions in the Dáil."

Well, what can be clearer and more explicit in these remarks than that the Government intended to co-operate with the public, and that the public had no cause for alarm or anxiety about the way these powers were administered; that the Government would be only too glad to meet and explain and, moreover—I do not think it is necessary to labour the point— meet in public and let the public know what explanation the Government were prepared to give? Then later on, in column 169 of the same volume, the definite specific question with which we are concerned, the censorship debate of Parliament came up and the Taoiseach gave an answer to Deputy Cosgrave's queries. Perhaps I had better give Deputy Cosgrave's question:

"Can we get anything like a similar undertaking to that which was given by the Taoiseach, that is, that in regard to our own political policies here—our political difference or policies as the case may be— it is not intended to have a censorship?"

The Taoiseach answered:

"The word ‘policies' is rather wide. In regard to anything that is legal in the ordinary sense, there is no doubt whatever it would be quite free, in so far as there might be a question of national interests in regard to our relations with other States."

Deputy Cosgrave then said:

"I would not put it further than that, taking such matters as are discussed in the House, for example, criticism of the Government in connection with the business side of these proposals, and so on—there will not be any censorship in respect of that?

The Taoiseach: I think that undertaking could be given all right."

There was the Taoiseach's first reaction to the censorship of our debates as a good Parliamentarian, and as I believe a genuine believer in the rights of Parliament. That was his sponteneous reaction: "Yes, I think I can give you an undertaking that as regards your debates there will be no censorship." Then he went on to say:

"Discussions here in the House are privileged, and the publication of them, I take it, will be privileged also."

Then Mr. Lemass saw a little danger because he said:

"It is possible that a Deputy might state here information of high military value, and the publication of it in the Press would be very detrimental in our interests.

Mr. Cosgrave: That is true."

That was the atmosphere that prevailed when these Emergency Powers Orders were introduced. The Taoiseach was only too willing to allow their publication, with only just the restriction that possibly there might be matters affecting our national interests and that military information might have to be withheld. Now we pass from that. I think on that basis the House was quite right to trust the Government and to expect it to handle this matter in a sympathetic and understanding spirit. I know the Government were given and had to be given very wide powers.

We pass on to a later date. In the same volume at the meeting on 27th September, where the question of Press censorship came up more specifically, the Minister who is now in the House laid down more or less the rules and general instructions under which the Press had to work: First, "shall not publish any information which would or might endanger the security of the State, such as information relating to the movement or equipment of our defence forces, or matters which are calculated to cause disaffection either amongst our defence forces or amongst the people or which might prejudice the people." In the second category you have "matters which are likely to prejudice neutrality." Thirdly, "matters which would or might endanger our financial security." Anybody who has got the most rudimentary knowledge of what goes on now and of what restrictions are put upon the Press even at this stage knows that the Minister has moved far beyond the spirit of those undertakings.

I would invite the Minister, if he wants specific instances of that, to receive a deputation from the Press and let them place before him a whole list of most irritating restrictions which bear no reasonable relation to our national security and are being imposed by him and his Department from day to day.

Now we come to the instance which has given rise to this whole matter. I am glad to receive a tribute from Senator Hayes as to the circumspect way in which I approached this question, because I admit that on matters of censorship I am inclined to be rather passionate. I do not much believe in the spirit of compromise. I read of a question at the Brains Trust on the spirit of compromise and the answer that convinced me most was "too much compromise". I believe compromise creates tepid water. If you want a hot bath have hot and cold water and get the right temperature. The prevailing atmosphere in political matters is tepid and with due respect to the mover I think his motion is equivalent to tepid water. I shall supply the hot water. I have no doubt I will get plenty of people coming with cold water to dilute it. I do not want to labour unduly the incident. The House has heard of it. A certain party had two letters, one with a postal order which was held, and the same happened with the cheque that followed. I went in the first instance to the Minister and he received me courteously. He said the addressee was not in question; he implied it was the addressor. I gave neither the name of the addressee nor that of the addressor in the House. I simply asked the Minister on what principle he acted when he stopped the letters without informing the writer. I think that was a very reasonable request. No fair-minded person, even the most dyed-in-the-wool Party politician, could say that a question of that kind could affect our national interests, even at the most critical period of the war, when the battle of Britain was on and the Germans were likely to be in England within the next week, let alone now when the war is practically confined to enemy soil.

On a point of order, the Senator has stated that the war is now being fought on enemy soil. I think that expression is not one that should be used in this House.

I realise my lapse. I withdraw the term "enemy" and substitute for it the word "German."

It was used more in the way of a passing reference.

The hot water is getting cold.

I hope that will satisfy the Seanad. As I say, no reasonable person, even those on the Government Benches, were they to put themselves in the position of judge, could say that that was a matter which affected our national security. Yet the Minister, pleading, as he is entitled to plead, security, refused to give an answer. I was surprised at that. I thought it discourteous, but imagine my surprise next morning— mind you, it was a surprise, although I have ceased to be surprised at what the Minister does, he does such extraordinary things—to find no reference to this matter in the Press next day.

A promise was given here when the emergency powers were granted that the censorship would not be used for Party purposes. Here it was used with what I say deliberately was a kind of personal perversity. I picture that something like this happened. After that debate took place, I have no doubt—I may say this is only an imaginary picture—the Censor rang up the Minister and he said: "Look here, the Press have sent me proofs of what Senator Keane said at the meeting of the Seanad"; and the Minister replied: "Oh, that fellow! Knock him on the head. The cheek of the fellow!" No doubt it was a nice friendly chat between two colleagues. That shows the background of the whole thing. It shows—and this makes me play the part of the hot water in this business—that the Minister had no regard for the background, the sanctity of the House in a matter of that kind. Surely in a matter dealing with the privileges of the Parliament, dealing with the rights of the individual as against the Executive, one would have expected a more reasonable approach than this attitude of: "Oh, they are only a lot of old gentlemen talking, a sort of debating society. What does it matter? Knock him on the head."

I may be exaggerating the Minister's attitude but if he had any Parliamentary sense, any Parliamentary instinct, any historical knowledge, any regard to his pledges, any regard for the responsibility of his office, any regard for the quasi-judicial position of a Minister of State, he would surely say: "I must think and ponder over this before dealing in this reckless manner with the privileges of the House of Parliament." I do not think he can take exception to some of us feeling outraged in this matter. Looking back with a short view of history, on the position of Parliament, has Parliament not always stood for the people against its oppressors? Even in the case of Magna Charta, it was a question of the feudal lords on behalf of the people against the Crown, of the under-dog against the over-lord. Coming right down to the time of the ill-starred Cromwell, we see that it was again a question of the fight of the Parliament against the King. Later in our time, in 1906 we had Parliament on the side of Lloyd George in his fight against the House of Lords. Parliament was the great body that always stood for the people in some form or another, even in the autocratic days when the people were represented by the feudal lords.

I hope I am receiving at least the sympathy of some of the gentlemen on the far benches when I plead the background of respect for Parliament in its historical settings. The way such powers are used distinguishes the statesman from the tyrant. The Minister had these powers, I know, but he must be judged by the way he uses them. I say he used them as a tyrant. He has used them as one who has no conception of what Parliament and democracy mean. He has used them in a way in which they might be used by Dr. Goebbels and Herr Himmler.

On a point of order, is it not rather out of place at this hour of the day to attribute motives to Ministers of a friendly State?

It is inadvisable but it is used merely by way of illustration.

I am not attributing motives. I say that they are Totalitarians. That is their philosophy and their ideology, but it is not our ideology. The Minister is using his power as if we had a Totalitarian ideology. He may say it is a good ideology. A lot of people do say that. Up to a few years ago, and I have no doubt still, we had people in this country holding such an ideology, but we have not them in this House. Though perhaps I should not speak for other members of the House, I should be surprised if we had people in this House with a Totalitarian ideology. We certainly have people in the country with a Totalitarian ideology, and I say, whether or not the Minister has a Totalitarian ideology, he is behaving in this matter as one who had. We hear a lot of talk about liberty, and people want sometimes to poke fun at liberty. I have no doubt that Senator Foran sometimes regards my statements about liberty as coming from the Manchester school, a demand forlaissez-faire, a demand to be allowed to do what we like. Well, of course that is a picturesque way of putting it, but none of us, even those of the Manchester school, goes quite so far as that. Some of us think there is an undue amount of regulation in public life, and others think there is not enough, but we all admit that there must be, in these days of complicated civilisation, a very considerable degree of public regulation. The only test of anything is a specific test. Here is a specific test: We are a democracy. We have got adult franchise. Perhaps unconsciously, perhaps against our will, we have taken to ourselves the whole traditions of the British Parliament. In fact, it would be very difficult for anybody to find any difference between the way we function and the way the British Parliament functions, except, of course, in matters like this, matters of administration.

The basis of this whole democratic idea is that the people must co-operate with their rulers. The people, as a sovereign body, choose their legislators, and the only hope for democracy is that the people should become educated. How does the ordinary person become educated? The Minister is surely not going to tell me that you get education in books. I had a letter the other day from a person who was concerned with getting a girl on the staff of an institution in which I am interested. The letter said: "She has done very well in her examinations, if you call that education."

I thought that was a good way of putting it—"if you call that education". Education in the real sense comes from life. I do not want to tell the Minister what he knows better than I do, that the reading of 90 per cent. of the people of this country does not go outside the daily papers. He is no fool; if he wants to keep the people in ignorance, he closes down on the daily papers. In doing so, he is closing down on the reading of 90 per cent. of the people. The other act of the Minister with which I have had occasion to deal concerns the reading of about 10 per cent. of the people—the educated people, from whom the leaders are naturally drawn. But the Minister now goes one better than that. If he gets his way, he is going to impose a mental black-out on 90 per cent. of the people, and yet it is suggested that we are making too much of this matter.

When I am in difficulty in matters of political history I go — I am sure Senator Magennis will sympathise with me—to a famous Irishman called Edmund Burke. I call him to my support on this occasion with some reluctance, because he has a public statue in this city, and we know the fate of our public statues in recent years. Edmund Burke deals, in principle, very aptly with the present situation. He says that in no age is the form of tyranny the same as in the ages that are past—that each age has its own special form. I may quote these words of his: "When an arbitrary imposition is attempted upon the subject, undoubtedly it will not bear on its forehead the name ofShip-money.... And when we hear any instance of ministerial rapacity, to the prejudice of the rights of private life, it will certainly not be the exaction of two hundred pullets, from a woman of fashion, for leave to lye with her own husband.” If I may paraphrase Burke, he says too that many a stern republican, after gorging himself with a full feast of admiration of the Grecian commonwealths, and discharging all the splendid bile of his virtuous indignation on, shall I say, Oliver Cromwell and William of Orange, sits down to the coarsest and homeliest job of the day in which he lives. That I represent as the true picture of the Minister's attitude on this occasion. The Minister was, at one time, the champion of the rights of the people. He did his part in giving to his country this Parliament, and yet, having assisted in giving this Parliament to his country, he imposes upon it the tyrannies which he condemned when he was fighting for freedom.

Well this is a sorry position in which to find ourselves after 25 years of self-government—that we should have to come to this House and accuse a Minister of State of violating, of deliberately abusing, the powers which the House has conferred on him, by preventing the proceedings of this House of Parliament from being known to the masses of the people. Really, it is time some steps were taken about it. As the Minister knows, there are numbers of people in this country who are prepared to go to prison in defence of those essential principles of freedom. The Minister goes along gaily and light-heartedly imposing upon the people a mental black-out. He will not, I am sure, send people to prison in regard to this matter. He knows that by so doing he would make national heroes of them, and he has no intention of doing that. Instead, we are having the education of our people in the ways of life prevented by arbitrary action. I hope the House will realise that it has a very high and important duty to perform in this matter. I am not specially concerned— although I should like it—that the amendment in the form I put it should be passed, but if my amendment is not passed I should like the House to express its objection to and reprobation of the Minister's action by a unanimous vote on the motion by Senator Hayes.

I second the amendment proposed by Senator Sir John Keane. As I see it, apart from all the rhetoric, the point is whether the Constitution of the country is the fundamental law. I was reinforced the other day by a speech of the Taoiseach, in which he stated that the Constitution is the fundamental law of the land. If the Constitution is the fundamental law, and Article 40 means what it states, then the Minister is to be condemned for abrogating that Article of the Constitution, which has always been taken as guaranteeing the liberty of the Press. I am not so confident as Senator Sir John Keane that Senators or Deputies are very much concerned about liberty. Certainly, they are not so much concerned with it now as they were in the days when they fought for liberty, and I want to say that, so far as I am concerned, I heartily endorse the words of the amendment as proposed by Senator Sir John Keane.

Article 15 has already been quoted by Senator Hayes, who proposed the original motion and, on reading for the second or third time the proceedings of this House on the 6th December last, I cannot understand the mentality of the Minister, who deliberately suppresses part of the proceedings of this House because, in so far as he does that, he is guilty of abrogating the Constitution of this country and deserving of the condemnation of this House.

My difficulty in replying this evening is that Senator Sir John Keane is not such "hot stuff" as he evidently thinks he is. I was hoping that he would be really so hot as to engender some heat in myself, but I think that all the heat energy he generated here this evening would not even keep a ha'penny candle going for a half-minute. He quoted Burke, and I think that the quotation he gave from Burke quite properly explains my action in stopping the publication in the daily Press of Senator Sir John Keane's statement and my reply. He quoted those words of Burke: "In no age is the form of tyranny quite the same as in the previous age." Now, Senator Sir John Keane was associated with one form of tyranny in this country for quite a considerable time. The most dastardly form of tyranny which this country could suffer from at the present time is the form of tyranny which would deny to this country the freedom or power to protect itself. That is the grossest form of tyranny, and that is the form of tyranny which Senator Sir John Keane tried to practise in this country, and among other reasons for the sake of teaching him a lesson I tried to prohibit the publication of that report in order that we could discuss the matter here fully and let the people of the country hear the facts of the case on both sides. The Senator says that it is an outrage for a Minister to refuse to discuss in this House a matter of public security, a matter which the Minister has privately and publicly told the Senator it is not in the public interest to discuss.

Senator Sir John Keane quoted what would be done in neighbouring countries. Well, if Senator Sir John Keane had attempted to do in a neighbouring country what he did here, not only would his speech be cut out of the public Press, but also out of the public records of the House.

I deny that emphatically.

In the neighbouring country they have a system in both Houses of Parliament whereby a Committee of the House meets and deletes from the records of that House things affecting questions of national security. We have not that system here.

Have we not an analogous system here?

Not that I am aware of, in this House.

Surely, in the other House, the Ceann Comhairle can delete certain matters.

Certain phrases, but not whole speeches. As the Senator quite properly pointed out here, this case is quite fresh in that the report of a certain proceedings of the House was deleted. I had a certain sympathy with Senator Hayes in his speech this evening, but I certainly had no sympathy with Senator Sir John Keane.

I did not expect that the Minister would have any sympathy with me.

I do not think that Senator Sir John Keane would be quite so punctilious about his privileges if it were a question of a Government that was not concerned with the welfare of the Irish people. He is most punctilious now because he is concerned, so far as I can see, to deny the right of our people to organise and protect themselves in a case of total war. Senator Hayes, so far as I can see, this evening, made a perfect case for complete freedom of discussion in the Houses of the Oireachtas and complete freedom of publication, and I completely and absolutely agree with him on that point, so far as normal times are concerned, but we are not living in normal times at the moment. The portions of the Constitution which Senator Hayes quoted were drafted to deal with the powers and privileges of Parliament in normal times, but there are other sections of the Constitution, and under them this House and the Dáil agreed to empower the Government and put upon it the duty of protecting the interests of this small, neutral country, while surrounded, as it is, by total war. Those powers were sought by the Government because the Government felt that it was its duty to seek them, and these powers were given to the Government by the Oireachtas because the Oireachtas believed that it was in the interests of the country that the Government should have these abnormal powers in order to deal with an abnormal situation.

Very few governments, if they have any wisdom, want to exercise such powers beyond what is necessary, and it was with a good deal of hesitation, and, in fact, only after a great deal of hesitation, that I decided to exercise the powers conferred upon me so as to enable me to fulfil the duty imposed upon me, as Minister, to protect the interests of this State in a time of total war. The particular case out of which the whole matter arose, I am not at liberty to discuss. In times of peace, when it is a question of national security, of espionage, or Fifth Column activity, such matters can be discussed in open court, but in the case of a small, neutral country, surrounded by total war, things cannot be done in that particular way, and the Government, if it is acting up to its responsibilities, must carry out its duty, even though it may be a case of seeming to exceed the powers conferred upon it for the time being. That is one of the disabilities of being a government. Now, I agree completely with Senator Hayes that in normal times the proceedings of this House and of the Dáil should be published, but I hold very strongly, since we have no method of procedure, such as they have adopted across the sea, of deleting from the records of the House, and automatically from the papers, proceedings in which members abused their privileges, that whatever Minister has power to rectify the matter should exercise that power.

Would the Minister state his authority for this Committee?

I am not here to educate Senator Sir John Keane. If he knew anything before he made the statement he made here to-night, he would have found out the procedure in other countries which he quoted as an example for us to follow. I will educate him to this extent that before he makes statements like that he should, at least, examine the facts. I think it would be pretty difficult to educate him, because there is no one, only somebody who was naturally stupid, who would make the statement that it was an outrage. If we are going to get hot about it and say that it was an outrage, he should not abuse his privileges in the way he did on the occasion we are referring to, and after he had been seen by a Minister and the situation explained to him.

I think I have dealt with the points that have been raised, but I want to make a reply to one point in Senator Hayes's speech. Trying to draw a straight line from one point is a very difficult matter, and I do not think even a historian or a professor of history can do it. This total war has been going on for five years and this is the first occasion, as far as I know, that a question of censorship of the records of the Seanad has been raised, so I do not think that Senator Hayes can proceed from this point into the disastrous future he envisages when all records will be obliterated.

I do not think I went as far as that.

You went very near it.

May I say that I can understand a particular part of a speech being deleted, but I cannot understand all reference to the particular proceeding being taken out? My point is that it is quite clear that if the thing is done with a question on the Adjournment it could be done with a motion at any other time.

My whole point is that the line is drawn from one point.

Lines are always drawn from one point.

But there has to be another point before you draw it—you would want to know where you are going. This is a single instance, and there are five and a half years of other instances to show that the conclusion to be drawn is other than that Senator Hayes fears. In five and a half years of total war around us, no single proceeding has been cut out of the papers, even though I have had the powers to do it, and I would like to bet that if an emergency happened to last for another five and a half years, Senator Hayes would have very few other points. However, we hope that the war will not last long and that I will be relieved of the duties and responsibilities of censoring, either in this House or in the papers, what anybody else wants to say.

However, at the moment I am responsible—I cannot shed the responsibility. The responsibility cannot be shed by all of the Irish people, because somebody has got to exercise the powers that are exercised in every country in the world for the protection of their people. I am not going to be shaken while I am responsible, by any name calling by Senator Sir John Keane, the new democrat, from fulfilling my democratic duty of making certain that when the Irish people want their affairs run in a particular way, it is not going to be interfered with by any enemy, foreign or domestic, as long as I can prevent it.

The motion, not the amendment, was drafted jointly by Senator Hayes and myself with some care. The object was to give the House an opportunity of debating what seemed to us a matter of considerable importance from the point of view of Parliament and from the point of view of the Seanad. We had no desire to engender heat and I am, therefore, not very much concerned with the exact wording of the motion. It may be that Senator Sir John Keane is right, that his wording would engender more heat than ours. He seems to have been rather more successful with the Minister than I thought at the beginning of the Minister's speech.

I do not propose to follow the Minister or Senator Sir John Keane with regard to the general question, not because I could not speak for an hour or more on the general question of censorship, but because I believe the Minister's speech, of itself, proves a complete and absolute justification for the tabling of this motion. Even he is not surprised. He does not even criticise us for viewing with concern the fact that a whole debate of this House should be censored. I do not know, and I do not suppose it would be worth while, even if there were an easy way of discovering it at this stage, whether the emergency powers, under which the Minister acts, give him power to take away the constitutional rights of the House.

I do not know, if this were to go to the Supreme Court, whether it would or would not be held that the provisions of the Constitution that provide for publicity include publication in the Press, and I am not particularly anxious even if it could be done without cost, at this stage of the emergency, to have a clear-cut decision. What I am anxious about is that all the members of this House, no matter what their Party affiliation, should realise that the rights and privileges of one member, even if there was not another who agreed with him, are the rights and privileges of the House as a whole, and that it is not necessary to have even the slightest agreement, even to the extent to which some of us would have agreement, with Senator Sir John Keane.

It is right to view with concern anything which might interfere with the rights of one member, but when, at some time, you have, as we had in this particular instance, a question of the rights of the whole House, then I think the Minister, on consideration, will say that it was a proper matter for discussion and debate, not with heat, not with accusations of bad faith against anybody, but so that it should be known that, even on a very small matter, this House was jealous of its rights and constitutional privileges.

It seems to me that if a member of this House deems it his duty to bring forward a matter and if the Minister, in the exercise of his discretion, says, as he said in this case, that he cannot reply because it is a matter of security, it is the right of the people to know that the matter was brought forward and that the Minister could not deal with it because it was a matter of security. The only exception to that rule I can conceive would be if the publication of that fact, of itself, would endanger our security. If it did, what should happen? Senators may say that the Minister could do nothing because of what I claim and what Senator Hayes claims to be the constitutional right of the Seanad. I respectfully disagree. I think that the Minister, before finally censoring this debate, had a specific duty to consult the Cathaoirleach. I think that the Cathaoirleach would have had a duty to call together the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I was for a considerable time, off and on, a member of that Committee. I think that the representatives of the different Parties on that Committee, while very anxious to maintain the rights of the House, would also be anxious to secure that no debate should be so used as to interfere with security or with the national interests in any way. I do not think that any member—and I include Senator Sir John Keane without question— would wish that to take place.

I have carefully listened to the reply by the Minister. I hope I am wrong, I hope I missed something, but the only reason I heard for censoring the report of this debate was that he wanted to teach Senator Sir John Keane a lesson. He does not know the Senator if he thinks that that would teach him a lesson. Even if it would, the Minister has no right to censor the report of a House of Parliament for the purpose of teaching a Senator a lesson, however much he thinks it would be in the national interest for the Senator to learn the lesson. I am sorry that the Minister gave that reason, because it tends to turn a serious matter into a farce. The second excuse—I do not use the word "excuse" in any unpleasant sense; I cannot think of a better word because the Minister did not give any reasons—given by the Minister was that there was no machinery to deal with a matter discussed here the publication of which would not be in the national interest. He has not at any time said, and I do not see how he could say, that there would be any danger to our security by the publication of the few words used by himself in this House or the somewhat longer but, for Senator Sir John Keane, comparatively short, speech made on that occasion.

The Minister did suggest that one of the reasons that led him to take that step was the absence of machinery such as, he says, exists in the British House of Commons. I know a little about procedure in the House of Commons but, on the question of knowledge of the procedure in the British Parliament, I yield entirely to the Minister. I am quite satisfied that he should be a better authority on British procedure than I am. I am not trying to make a point of that. He has means of getting information on these matters more quickly than I could get it. I do not think that the procedure is quite what the Minister represented it to be. I do not think that there is a Committee to take steps if a member abuses his privileges. There may be a Committee which deals with the deletion of matters which would interfere with the national security. But the matters which are allowed to be published and which are broadcast, affecting the proceedings in the British House of Commons, suggest that that Committee is either asleep or takes an extraordinarily wide view of what it is permissible to publish. I cannot conceive that Committee agreeing to delete the subject matter of our discussion on December 6th.

The Minister pointed out that we are not living in normal times and said he agreed with Senator Hayes so far as normal times were concerned. Senator Hayes made clear that he was not dealing with normal times. If any Minister or any member of the Dáil were to interfere with the rights of this House in normal times, it would be the duty of the House not simply to discuss a resolution but to send a Message asserting its rights. The only reason we proposed that this matter should be discussed by way of motion was that it had not arisen in normal times. There was a desire, too, on the part of everybody not to raise undue difficulties. I suggest very respectfully to the Minister that the very fact that we are not living in normal times and that it may be necessary for us all, for genuine reasons of security, to agree to a certain measure of censorship, even of Parliamentary debates, requires that there should be considerable hesitation and consideration before preventing the publication of a debate which has taken place in either House of Parliament. The last thing I want to do is to exaggerate.

But I do want to make clear that this motion was put down seriously, put down not simply for the purpose of raising many matters relating to censorship which have been discussed before, and may be discussed again, but because we see in this a matter which will be very important if it ever occurs again. If it became the practice, and if this passed without discussion, it would be regarded as acceptance of the fact that if it were undesirable to publish some portion of a debate, then the simple way was to censor the whole debate. That, I think, is the main reason that this motion was put down. There was one thing which the Minister said at the end of his speech with which I am in complete and absolute agreement. He said that he hoped it would not be long before he, and by that he meant everybody else, would be relieved of the responsibility of censorship of any matter. With that I completely agree and join in the hope.

But do not believe a word of it.

Senator Sir John Keane said that he spoke as an extremist, but he spoke moderately and even jocosely. I am not an extremist. I am a moderate, but I believe occasionally one can be immoderate in one's moderacy. Until to-day I had not associated the Minister with either shamefacedness or cowardice, but I desire to point out that the only way in which his action as Minister can be construed is either that of a man who is ashamed of what he has done or a man who is afraid of letting the people as a whole know what he has done, possibly because he is ashamed. In justice to the Minister I pass over as not having been meant seriously his own explanation, that he did this in a fit of petulance in order to teach Senator Sir John Keane a lesson. I cannot believe that that was meant seriously. I think too well of the Minister. I think too well of any Minister in this country or in this Government to consider that he would take action which infringes the privileges of the Seanad to vent his spite against a particular member. But the Minister went so far as to make me wonder whether I was not wrong in giving him pardon for that, because he said that if a member abuses privilege it is the duty of the responsible Minister to take steps to put him right. If that be so, it is equally the duty of every member if the Minister abuses privilege to put him right.

I feel strongly on this subject. There is one point only I wish to make. The foundation of democracy is this, that the people should know what is being done by their representatives and by their Government. They choose their representatives and the representatives choose the Government. It is the business of the representatives not to back up blindly whatever may be done by the Government, but to exercise, as far as possible, a farseeing criticism upon those matters. It is the right and privilege of the people of this country to know not merely what is being done but the criticisms that are being passed upon the Government by the responsible members of either House who have been elected by the people.

I do not deny that there are circumstances in war and out of war when it may be the duty of a Minister or of the Government to say that a matter is a State secret or of such importance that it should not be divulged to the public. I do not deny that it is compatible with democracy that a Minister or Government should be allowed to say: "That is a matter upon which we have to make up our opinion upon the evidence before us, and do not wish to publish the discussion." If they do that it is the right of the people to know how often they are doing it. If the right which is given to them by the people is one that can be abused, it is the right of the people of this country to know how often the Minister or the Government refuses to answer a criticism addressed to them in the House, by pleading that it is a matter of secrecy or State privilege. The real accusation which can be brought in this particular case is not that the Minister has exercised the right of refusing to discuss the particular matter but that he should refuse to let the people know that he was resting upon these rights, and so deprive the people of the right of knowing how the Government was acting and, if necessary, showing their disapproval in a constitutional manner. That is the point which the Minister has not met and it is the important constitutional point involved. If it is laid down in the Constitution that these Houses should meet in public what is the purpose of that? In order that the people should know what is being done, that they should come in here and listen and, although it is not put in so many words, read in the organs of the Press what is being done by their representatives and their Government. If the Minister not only falls back on the power of closure and the power of shortening discussion, but takes steps to see that the people of this country do not even know that he is exercising these powers, it is a very serious breach, not merely of privilege but of the rights of the people to know what the Minister is doing.

I must confess that I do not feel quite so strongly on this matter as my colleague Senator Kingsmill Moore, because I am inclined to look at this whole transaction in a cold, legal way. By the Emergency Powers Act, 1939, and the Emergency Powers Orders under that Act, which have since been made, this power of censorship was given to the Minister who is now present. He has the power to decide whether matter should be censored. That power has been given into his hands by Parliament, and he is the judge whether or not any particular matter should be censored. On the 6th December we had a speech by Senator Sir John Keane on the adjournment. In that speech he raised certain matters concerning the transmission of letters through the post. He raised them for the purpose of eliciting from the Minister what was the reason why these letters were held without any notification being sent to the senders. The Minister made a very brief speech. He said:

"I have already told Senator Sir John Keane that it is a matter of security. I say here and now that it is a matter of security, and I refuse to discuss the matter further."

The Minister censored that speech by Senator Sir John Keane, and his own speech. I assume that censoring was a matter of security. I do not think that he censored that speech or his own speech merely to teach Senator Sir John Keane a lesson. It is a fundamental principle that if Parliament confers upon anybody the determination of any fact, the courts will not interfere with that person in the determination of that matter. The Minister is the proper authority to determine whether the publication of any matter, whether that matter represents a debate in this House or not, is detrimental to the national security. He is the person entrusted with that power. If he decides it is detrimental to the security of the State—he may be wrong; other people may take a different view—he at all events is the person in whom that power is vested, and he is the only person who can exercise it. Having exercised it, there is no appeal from it.

Surely there is an appeal to Parliament?

Or to the courts.

In my submission, the courts would not investigate the matter. It is well settled that if Parliament confers the determination or the ascertainment of fact on any individual or body, the courts will not interfere.

Is there not an appeal to Parliament on the Ministerial exercise of power?

A Senator

The High Court of Parliament.

I never heard of our High Court of Parliament before. What I am pointing out is that, as far as the exercise of this power is concerned, the Minister was the person entrusted by Parliament to exercise it. We may not agree with the manner in which he exercises that power but the Minister is placed in a special position by reason of his membership of the Government, and by reason of the information at his disposal, to enable him to determine whether or not publication of any matter would be detrimental to the national security. The ordinary members of this House or the members of the Dáil are not in the position in which the Minister is placed for the purpose of censorship.

The question has been raised as to the right of the Minister to censor this speech. In my submission, he was perfectly and legally entitled to do it. The only objection that can be made to that statement is that censorship of debates in this House is repugnant to the Constitution, but I cannot find anything in the Constitution which would prevent the Oireachtas from conferring upon the Minister power under the Emergency Powers Act for the purposes of furthering national security, to censor in the Press any statement made in Dáil Eireann or in this House. It is true that Article XIV of the Constitution provides that the sitting of each House of the Oireachtas shall be public. The same Article makes provision for Official Reports and publications of the Oireachtas. Standing Order 64 (1) of the Seanad provides that an Official Report of the debates of the Seanad shall be issued under the supervision of the Cathaoirleach. Now, there has been no interference whatsoever with the Official Reports of this House and the speech of Senator Sir John Keane and the speech of the Minister in reply are both given in full in the Official Report. There is nothing in the Constitution which precludes censoring in the newspapers, by the proper Minister under the Emergency Powers Regulations, any statement made in this House.

I think myself that a great deal of what I would call exaggerated importance has been given to this matter. I know that on the next morning I looked for the debate in the Press and I could not find it. The reason I looked for the debate in the Press was because I was not present when Senator Sir John Keane was speaking and I was anxious to know what happened. I am sure the great majority of the Irish people were not as anxious as I was to see what Senator Sir John Keane had said.

They did not even know that he was saying it. That is the snag.

I read his speech in the Official Debates when I received them. I was not a bit annoyed by the fact that the report did not appear in the newspapers for the simple reason that I believe that the debates of both Houses of the Oireachtas have been censored by different newspapers according as it suits them. Last week we had a debate on the Drainage Bill and I looked in vain in theIrish Press for a report of that debate. I may have got the Dublin edition and, of course, the people of Dublin are not interested in drainage.

Maybe it was in the Limerick edition.

At all events the fact that this debate did not appear in the newspaper did not injure a single person in this country. Of course, another matter must be considered. An Act was passed in England in 1677 and in Ireland in 1695 called the Statute of Frauds. It was entitled an Act for the prevention of frauds and perjuries. While it was an Act to prevent frauds and perjuries, persons took advantage of it to perpetrate frauds, and a learned judge once said that the Statute of Frauds should not be used as an engine of fraud. The same remark would apply to the question of privilege. There is such a thing as Parliamentary privilege which we all highly prize and value, but it must be used in moderation. In this case it so happened that some person who had suffered some injury at the hands of a postal official was able to get Senator Sir John Keane to raise the matter in this House. I do not know whether many other people who suffered at the hands of the postal censorship—perhaps there were thousands—would be able to get Senator Sir John Keane to put forward their grievances in this House.

At all events, the question of privilege is a matter that must be carefully considered. I say that in a time of national emergency, Parliamentary privilege, where the security of the State is in question, must take second place. The non-publication in the newspapers of these particular speeches was not a breach of privilege. It was not a breach of the Constitution. Therefore, I say at the present time, when we are so near the war and at the same time fairly well removed from it, we should act prudently and we should accept, whether we agree with it or not, the statement of the Minister that the censoring in the Post Office and in the newspapers was a matter of security. He stated it in that way. Personally I accept the statement. He is the Censor and I think that if we pass either the motion or the amendment we are setting ourselves up as censors. Therefore I think, that having debated this matter and having aired our grievances, the motion brought forward by Senator Hayes should be withdrawn.

I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.
The Seanad adjourned at 9 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 22nd February, 1945.