This Bill is a short and simple Bill, but one which, it is believed, will have far-reaching and entirely beneficial consequences for this country. It comes before the Seanad with the unanimous approval of Dáil Éireann. During its passage through the Dáil not a single vote was cast against it, not a single vote was recorded against it. It is hoped that a similar welcome will be given to it by the Seanad. During the course of my remarks on the Second Reading of the Bill in the Dáil, I gave a long, elaborate and, I hope, comprehensive survey of the conditions leading to the conception of this Bill and to its introduction into the Parliament of this nation. I am sure that Senators will not expect me— indeed, I believe they would not wish me—to travel over all the ground I covered in the various speeches I made in the Dáil. I hope just to give as concise an account as possible of the reasons impelling the Government to introduce the Bill and ask for its passage through this House.
The Bill, when it becomes law and is brought into operation, will put beyond all doubt dispute and controversy our international status and our constitutional position. It will also, we hope and sincerely believe, end all that crescendo of bitterness which has been poisoning our country for the past 25 or 26 years, and it will also enable us to do that which, from the discussions which have already taken place in Dáil Éireann on the Bill, is the earnest hope of all Parties in this Parliament, improve our relations not merely with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, but particularly with our nearest neighbour and best customer, Great Britain.
The first section of the Bill provides that "The Executive Authority (External Relations) Act, 1936, is hereby repealed." The proposals which are embodied in this Bill were referred to comprehensively in various newspaper comments as proposals to repeal the External Relations Act. The Government have been criticised from two different angles in connection with these proposals. On the one side and from one point of view it is said that the Government are taking the State out of the Commonwealth of Nations, are breaking the last link with the Crown and that this action was taken impetuously, without advertence to or full consideration of the consequences which would follow upon the repeal of that Act.
Senators are considering this measure to-day in an atmosphere of reality, in an atmosphere from which all the fog of misrepresentation and the poisonous lies has been dissipated. They can approach its consideration in the certain knowledge that, when it has been passed and becomes operative, our status will be internationally recognised as an independent Irish Republic in a way in which it has not been hitherto recognised and that all our commercial and other relations with those members of the Commonwealth of Nations with which for the past 25 or 26 years we have in some way and in some fashion or other had association will continue as they were before and will, in fact, be considerably ameliorated. That is the reality which Senators have the advantage of facing. Starting from the time of the first Chequers talks a few weeks ago, at which Ministers of this Government conferred with Ministers of the British Government, the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government and the Canadian Government, propaganda was disseminated in which the most horrific warnings were given as to what would happen if and when this Bill was introduced and passed into law. We were told that Irishmen would be aliens in Great Britain, that those trade preferences which had been accorded to us by Great Britain and other members of the Commonwealth of Nations, while, as it was alleged, we were members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, would be taken away from us and it was left to be inferred that considerable embarrassment and pecuniary loss would result. It is very gratifying to know that we have been able to achieve the results I have referred to here and that our trade relations will be in no way disrupted or dislocated, that our citizens will have free passage as they had up to this to the various countries forming the Commonwealth of Nations, that our Irish nationality will be fully recognised for the first time and that trade preferences will be in as full force and effect as they were before this Bill becomes law.
That is, as I have insisted, the reality, and I would ask Senators to approach the consideration of this Bill, having regard to that reality. The present position then is that the Government which was supposed, according to poisonous propaganda, to have taken this step without consideration, impetuously disregarding the nation's interests, have been able to achieve what I have stated and, in addition, to put, I believe, our relationships with Great Britain and the other members of the Commonwealth of Nations on a far sounder basis and to give to that basis a wider concept of reality and cordiality than it ever had before.
The Executive Authority (External Relations) Act, 1936, has had a very chequered history. If Senators will give me the charity of their patience for a few moments, I will outline the circumstances which led to the passing of that Act, in order to deal with the line of criticism to which I have referred and also to deal with the second line of criticism on which I have not yet expanded. I may say here that the second line of criticism or attack—whichever expression you prefer—came from that section of the people who said, entirely in contradistinction to what has been said by those others attacking us: "The Bill proposed here does nothing at all and is really of no significance whatever; it is only recognising something that already exists." The furthest that these people would go was to say that perhaps there was some doubt or difficulty—doubt or difficulty which, they alleged, emanated largely from the minds of politically-minded lawyers—and that it is a good thing to clear up any such doubts and difficulties, if they exist and to the extent that they exist.
I want to deal with both those lines of attack or criticism. I will commence with the first line of attack, and I want to mention this fact—because it is amazing, the number of people here and outside this country who have not adverted to what each one of us knows to be the fact—that the partition of Ireland was created by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and that that Act, which was passed on the 23rd December, 1920, obviously and clearly preceded the Treaty of the following year, of the 6th December, 1921, although, of course, the Act itself was only brought into operation piecemeal by orders of the British Privy Council. The Treaty of 6th December, 1921, gave this country the constitutional status of Canada and the other members of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is not necessary for me to go through the long history of constitutional development which took place from the time that Treaty was ratified until the year 1932, when there was a change of Government. The net result of it was, at all events, that as a result of the Imperial Conferences of 1926, 1929 and 1930, it was perfectly clear that each and every member of that community of nations was a free and independent member with full sovereign status in the international comity of nations. The link which bound them together was the link of the British Crown and that link had been described, with the consent of all the nations concerned, in the Statute of Westminster, as the symbol of the free association of those members forming the community of nations known as the Commonwealth of Nations.
A change of Government took place in 1932. The Government which came into office at that time undoubtedly had —or subsequently acquired in the following year, 1933—the full support of a majority of the people of the 26 counties of Ireland which are under the de facto and de jure jurisdiction of this Parliament. With a different policy from that pursued by the previous Government, they proceeded to make certain fundamental constitutional changes, the most material of which was the change embodied in and effected by the Constitution (Removal of Oath) Act, 1933. That Act repealed the section of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act, 1922, which gave the Treaty the force of law and it removed the Oath of Allegiance which was in the Treaty from the operation that it purported to have.
Various other amendments of the Constitution took place, but it was not until the 10th December, 1936, that any matter took place to which it is relevant for me to refer. Up to the 10th December, 1936, with the exception of the removal of the Oath, the abolition of the Privy Council and some minor constitutional changes, the position continued to be as it was before the change of Government in 1932. It was clear that, while it could be alleged that the Treaty had been broken by the removal of the Oath, that matter was accepted by the British Government and by the British people. Ireland remained a member of the community of nations known as the British Commonwealth of Nations certainly until the 10th December, 1936. On that date the King then King of England, King Edward VIII, executed an instrument of abdication by which he abandoned his crown and all right and title to be King of any of the countries over which he had theretofore reigned. That instrument was signed on the 10th December by him and expressed his irrevocable determination to renounce the throne of England.
Apparently, the Government at that time felt that it was in the interests of this country that they should deal with the situation created by that abdication. It is not necessary for me to go into the controversies and discussions that arose, and have since arisen, on the effect of the action taken, save so far as those matters are relevant to the consideration to which Senators have to address themselves here to-day. On the 10th December, the abdication having taken place, the Dáil was summoned. Senators will, perhaps, remember that at that time there was no Seanad. The Seanad had been abolished some short time before, by the Statute No. 18 of 1936, which was signed on the 29th May, 1936.
The Government introduced two measures into the Dáil. They introduced a Bill to amend the Constitution, a Bill which subsequently became the Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Act, 1936, and they introduced the Executive Authority (External Relations) Act, 1936. The No. 27 amendment Bill first was considered by the Dáil. The general effect of that amendment was to take out of the Constitution of this country, the King, all reference to the King, and all powers purported to be vested in the King or exercisable by him on the advice of Irish Ministers. It took out of the Constitution all references to the representative of the King, the Governor-General, and, generally speaking, when this Bill was passed, there was no function, so far as the Constitution was concerned, that was exercisable by the King, with or without advice.
This Act purported to vest all those powers in the Government, or rather, to put it more technically, to make all those powers exercisable by the Government. That Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Act was signed by the Governor-General on the 11th December, 1936. It may be of interest to recall that that was his death warrant: he ceased, the minute he signed that, to be Governor-General. Also it might be of interest—it is of no interest now, except to constitutional lawyers—to consider how it was that the representative of the King who had abdicated the previous day was able to give the assent of that King to a constitutional amendment.
At all events, that statute passed the Dáil and was given the assent in that way and the following day, on the Saturday, the Dáil considered and passed the Executive Authority (External Relations) Act, 1936. There are many interesting points arising on that statute, but I do not propose to go into them. The attitude I adopted in the Dáil—the attitude that I wish to adopt here to the Seanad—was this: that the passing of that Act and the subsequent enactment of the Constitution of 1937 have given rise to bitter controversies, disputes, difficulties, nationally and internationally. On those disputes and on the matters arising from the passing of these enactments various points of view can be held, have been held and will be held and it is no function of mine at this stage of the history of this country to state whether the view I held or hold is the correct one or whether the view held by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. de Valera, during all those years is the correct one or whether there is some other view that can be equally held and is equally correct, or not.
The essential point is this, that from the time that Act was passed until this very year there has persisted in this country a constant stream of argument and dispute, futile and arid, leading nowhere, but giving rise to very considerable bitterness and very considerable doubt and, worse still, leading to very considerable conflict of an armed character, of an illegal character, which, in its turn, brought the consequences that the Government of the day, in the exercise of its duty as a Government, had to enforce the law against people who refused to accept a particular interpretation of these enactments and who persisted in their efforts of an illegal character, many of them sincerely actuated in their desire to achieve what they wanted to achieve, an Irish Republic, which they said did not exist under these enactments.
This statute provided that the British Crown or King could be used in connection with our international relations to the extent specified in the statute. I am not going to enter into any argument as to whether on a certain construction of this statute it was possible to argue that the King remained in full force and effect by virtue of certain words in the statute. That was one of the discussions that took place, one of the endless controversies that have occupied valuable time in the last 12 years.
Under Section 3 of this Act it was declared that so long as Saorstát Éireann is associated with certain specified nations in the Commonwealth of Nations, namely, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and South Africa, and so long as the King, recognised by these nations as the symbol of their co-operation, continues to act on behalf of each of these nations, on the advice of the several Governments thereof, for the purposes of the appointment of diplomatic and consular representatives and the conclusion of international agreements, the king so recognised may, and is hereby authorised, to act on behalf of Saorstát Éireann for the like purposes as and when advised by the Executive Council so to do.
Now, accepting the proposition that all that happened under that enactment was that the King was entitled to act, if so advised by the Government of this country, in reference to the appointment of diplomatic representatives and the conclusion of international agreements, that situation, narrowed down to that point, has been the cause of what I have referred to as arid, futile and endless discussions as to our status. It will be noticed that the words used here, presumably employed deliberately, do not state that this instrument or organ, as it subsequently came to be called, is to be used so long as Ireland is "a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations." It is only so long as Ireland "is associated" with the Commonwealth of Nations.
There are various infirmities in this statute, to which I have on other occasions called attention, and to which I think it is not necessary to refer to-day. In the context of the criticism to which we have been subjected by this Bill, that we are removing the last link with the Crown, I want to direct the attention of Senators to a few relevant points. The first one is that the King there is, under this statute, selected for limited purposes, for purposes which are entirely confined to international relations with this country —a very important matter indeed— and there is no statement here that Ireland is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. In fact, from that time on, and even after the Constitution of 1937 was enacted, the King was so used in all the relevant international documents appointing our representatives abroad.
Now the allegation is that we have taken the King away. Controversies arose as to what his functions were. The Constitution of 1937 was enacted and, from start to finish, there is no reference whatever to the Crown, to the British King or to any monarch whatever, but there is a provision, as Senators are probably aware, in the Constitution—Article 29—providing that an organ, instrument or method of procedure used or adopted by the members of any group or league of nations may be employed by the Irish Government. Following upon that authority in the Constitution, the instrument of the British Crown has been used up to this for those purposes. When the Constitution was enacted, the British, as Senators are probably aware, sent a Note to this country stating their point of view on the effect of the enactment of the Constitution. I will read the relevant portion of it:—
"His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have considered the position created by the new Constitution which was approved by the Parliament of the Irish Free State in June, 1937, and came into force on December 29th. They are prepared to treat the new Constitution as not effecting a fundamental alteration in the position of the Irish Free State, in future to be described, under the new Constitution, as Éire or Ireland, as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
His Majesty's Governments in Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand and the Union of South Africa are also prepared so to treat the new Constitution."
I have directed the attention of Senators to the British constitutional theory that the Crown is the symbol of free association and that common allegiance to the Crown is the link uniting the members of the Commonwealth together—common allegiance. The British Government said they were prepared to treat the position created by the new Constitution of 1937, which was entirely republican in form, and the Executive Authority (External Relations) Act, 1936, as not effecting any fundamental alteration in the position of this country with Great Britain, and the other Governments of the Commonwealth agreed to adopt the same procedure. Their point of view, therefore, was, presumably, if they were to adopt their theory, that because of this External Relations Act and the use of the Crown for limited purposes, that Crown still remained the link and implied allegiance but those Senators who are lawyers will probably have noticed the significance of the words used by the British in this Note. They are prepared to treat the new Constitution as not effecting a fundamental alteration—"prepared to treat it as not effecting." We have a principle that when a statute deems a thing to be something, it in effect recognises that it is not and, by that Note, the position appears to have been taken up by the British that, although they knew full well that a fundamental alteration in fact had taken place by the passing of a Constitution republican in form and by the use, as an organ, of the British Crown, they were going to deem the position to be as it was before, thereby admitting that it was not as it was before.
The position taken up by Mr. de Valera, then Taoiseach, was fundamentally different, and I will have to refer Senators to some passages from Mr. de Valera's utterances during the course of the last 12 years in this context. He took up the point that this country owed no allegiance to the British Crown. As to whether the King was the link or not he stated that anybody — except, curiously enough, the President of Ireland—could be authorised to act in connection with the signature of treaties and the carrying out of our very fundamental international relations, on which foreign nations judge our international position. The President could not do it. Anybody else could do it. The office boy could do it. The King was only accepted there for a short time. That is the link that we are supposed to be breaking. That shows the sort of poisonous propaganda and the entire misunderstanding about what we are doing here and what is taking place. I want Senators fully to realise that. The British said: "We are prepared to treat the matter as if nothing took place." The Irish Government, represented by their leader, Mr. de Valera, said: "Something fundamental has taken place. We do not recognise the King at all. We are using him the same as we could use an office boy if we wanted to," and nobody was ever able to tell until recently or—perhaps I should say—nobody was ever able to get any authoritative information as to whether we were or were not during the previous 12 years a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The British said we were. The Irish Government through their head said, first of all, he did not know whether we were or not, then he said you could make up your own mind on it, and then he said that he had not enough information to say whether we were in or out of the Commonwealth. Finally, this year, he came down and said we were on the boundary, neither in nor out of the Commonwealth. That is the situation that confronted us. That is the situation, or part of it, that has to be dealt with in this Bill.
It would perhaps be relevant for me now to refer Senators to some of these utterances that I have adverted to on the position of the King and the Commonwealth of Nations. The Leader of the Opposition, Deputy de Valera, who had been probably the prime mover in all these constitutional changes, spoke on this Bill on the 24th of last month and he described the Crown as "a statutory agent". I think I had used that phrase first. He said:—
"You have no King here in this country no matter how much some may wish to misrepresent the position. There has been no King of Ireland either internally or externally since 1936 and certainly not since 1937."
He had made a similar statement earlier, but there it is stated specifically, the view of the Leader of the Opposition who conceived, designed and directed this system, that since 1936 and certainly since the enactment of the Constitution in 1937, there was no King here either internally or externally—and yet we are now supposed to be abolishing the last link with the Crown. In the same speech, he said in reference to the question of allegiance to the Crown:—
"It was obvious that we had publicly repudiated by our Acts of Parliament here and by our Constitution, any such thing as allegiance. It was perfectly clear, therefore, that if the States of the British Commonwealth were going to hold to the 1926 Declaration and to allegiance as the bond, then we were not in the Commonwealth."
He interpreted the note from the British that was served on the 29th December, 1937, and to which I have referred as follows:—
"In other words, they declared we were a member of the Commonwealth even though we had repudiated allegiance."
In July this year he expressed a similar view. On the 29th November, 1944, the then Taoiseach, Deputy de Valera, was asked by Deputy Oliver Flanagan a question which amounted to an interrogation: were we in or were we outside the Commonwealth? Apparently it had been stated in the British House of Commons that we were in the Commonwealth, and Deputy Flanagan asked the Taoiseach, as Minister for External Affairs:—
"Whether he was aware of a statement made in the British House of Commons by the Under-Secretary for Dominions that Éire was part of the British Commonwealth of Nations; if this statement is correct; and, if not, if he will consider a public denial."
The answer was singularly unilluminating:—
"As I pointed out in the Dáil on the 28th June this year during the debate on the Estimates for the Department of External Affairs, our position in regard to the British Commonwealth of Nations is governed by, and defined legally in, two instruments: one, an Act of the Oireachtas entitled Executive Authority (External Relations) Act, 1936, Section 3 (1). The other is the Bunreacht, which, in 1929, Section 4 (2), gives the Government certain powers in the executive domain in regard to our external relations. These are both public documents and can be read by anyone who desires to know the position. I do not propose to try to paraphrase them or to give any definition to the relationship established by them save that contained in the words of the documents themselves. I do not think it necessary to do so, nor do I think anything would be gained by attempting it."
In answer to that clear question, as to whether he believed we were in the Commonwealth or not, that is the answer given by the then Minister for External Affairs, and yet we are told by certain people that we are going outside the Commonwealth by this Bill. Deputy Flanagan returned to the charge and said:—
"The Taoiseach has not answered the question I put to him. I have asked the Taoiseach if the statement that Éire is a part of the British Commonwealth is correct? Yes or no?"
The answer was:—
"I think the Deputy will take some time to learn that you cannot always answer questions by ‘yes' or ‘no'. The Deputy can read the documents. He can see any definitions that the British may give of what they mean by the relationship between the British Commonwealth of Nations, and if he is not satisfied he can settle it with them."
Then further on Deputy Flanagan asked:—
"Is the Taoiseach aware that this is a question of national importance, and that the people are anxiously looking forward to a reply to clear the air as far as this statement in the British House of Commons is concerned? I consider the reply most unsatisfactory.
The Taoiseach: I can only say that this matter was settled back in 1936 and 1937 by the External Relations Act on the one hand and the Constitution on the other. It has not been changed since, and we do not propose to change it at the moment.
Mr. Flanagan: Then we are a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations?
The Taoiseach: Make up your own mind on it."
That is the 1944 version. "Yes" or "No" could not be said in answer to a specific statement in the British House of Commons. We are to make up our own minds. Yet we are told that this Bill is doing something drastic, getting us outside the British Commonwealth and breaking the link with the Crown, this half-link that has been referred to in this Act.
Again on the 11th July, 1945, the matter was taken up in the Dáil. The question was put by Deputy Dillon: were we a republic or were we not. Deputy de Valera replied:—
"We are, if that is all the Deputy wants to know."
I think it was in the course of that debate that Deputy de Valera first announced that we were a republic by reference to certain books.
On the 17th July, on the Estimate for the Department of External Affairs, Vol. 97, col. 2568, 2575, he said:—
"And now, to Deputy Dillon's second question—are we or are we not a member of the British Commonwealth? That is a question for which the material necessary for a conclusive answer is not fully available. It depends on what the essential element is in the Constitution of the British Commonwealth."
He had not the information to enable anybody to give a conclusive answer to this specific question. On June 24th of 1947 he had gone a step further. He did not say "yes" or "no" to Deputy Flanagan, and to Deputy Dillon he said that the material necessary for a conclusive answer to the question was not available.
On the 24th June 1947, column 87, Volume 107, he said:—
"This is a Republican State. As a matter of our external policy we are associated with the States of the British Commonwealth. We are not at the present time regarded as members of it, but we are regarded as associates."
He had gone on a stage further. Up to that he had not been able to say whether we were or whether we were not in it, but now he said that we were not members, but associates. Deputy Morrissey then asked whether that meant we were inside or outside, and he said:—
"It means that we are external to the British Commonwealth as long as the States in it regard the acceptance of allegiance to the King as the necessary link. If that is the bond which they have, we have not that bond and we have made it quite clear that we have not that bond."
There the matter rested until this year. On the 2nd December, 1948, column 927, he said that this question as to whether we were or were not a member is the only one of these points for which there was any basis of truth. Then he said:—
"I, therefore, was in this position, that I could not of myself say that we were in or that we were out. There is in this country a large number of people who will not be satisfied with being out and there is a large number of people who will not be satisfied with being in. There is only one place, in such a set of circumstances, in which the two contestants could possibly be satisfied, and that is on the boundary."
Senators or anybody outside the House who may be inclined to think that what we are doing here is something fundamental in the relationship of this country with the Commonwealth of Nations have only to look at that selection of extracts from the unending series of debates and discussions over the past 12 years to see for himself or herself where we stand in this matter. First, no answer, and the British insisting that we were within the Commonwealth of Nations; the Leader of the Government here in Ireland saying: "You can make up your own mind on it"; then saying that he had not enough material to answer "yes" or "no"; then, that we were not in the Commonwealth but were associates—whatever that means; and, finally, a few days ago, saying that we were on the boundary and he could not say whether we were in or out. Anybody who wishes to found an argument on that set of facts that we are doing something fundamentally in connection with breaking this socalled last link with the Crown and bringing this country outside the Commonwealth of Nations is welcome to that argument, because anybody who relies on that argument insults his own intelligence.
The position is perfectly clear to me, at all events—I do not want to insist upon my own judgment—there was nothing but an elaborate make-believe, almost a concerted illusion between Great Britain and this country. The one side asserted that we had a republic and that the King was used for certain purposes in the same way as the office boy could be used, but that no allegiance was owed to him, that he formed no link and had no importance whatever, except as a particular type of undignified symbol. On the other side, the British and others asserted that Ireland was in the Commonwealth. Senators must realise that that was the position. Here we insisted that we were outside the Commonwealth and that we recognised no Crown and no King; abroad, whether within the Commonwealth or outside it this country was regarded as being part of the Commonwealth.
The other source of controversy during the past 12 years was the question: "who was the head of the State." The answer to this provides a standard by which foreign countries, and even countries in the Commonwealth so far as they are not foreign, could test our international status. The head of State is one who typifies or embodies the idea of the corporate entity known as the State. In a republic, it is the President and in a monarchy it is the King. Here we had both a President and a King, but we had a President who had no functions in international affairs. Although the office boy could sign the credentials of our representatives abroad, the person who should have been the head of the State, the President of Ireland, the person who will be the head of the State when this Bill becomes operative, had no functions whatever in connection with international affairs. If Senators who have different political views from mine do not accept my word for that they can find that my statements are based upon statements made by Deputy de Valera in the recent discussions in the Dáil. The President could not do it, but the office boy could; but people outside saw that the King signed the document accrediting our representative to His Holiness the Pope on the advice of the Government exactly as he would have done before these constitutional changes took place, they saw that the President of the United States accredited his representative here through the medium of the King, and that we accredited our representative to the United States through the medium of the King. The King was the head of this State, so far as outside countries were concerned. We were not internationally recognised as a republic, and never were, and never will be until this Bill becomes operative.
On that point, as to who was head of the State another controversy arose. On 20th June, 1947, the then Deputy McGilligan, who is Professor of constitutional law in National University and who had to discuss this matter in his lectures to his students, was about to ask a question at column 2323 of Volume 106 of the Dáil Debates and the following colloquy took place:—
"Mr. McGilligan: If we have a head of the State in this country——
Mr. de Valera: We have.
Mr. McGilligan: I say, no.
Mr. de Valera: The President is the head of the State.
Mr. McGilligan: The President is not the head of the State.
Mr. de Valera: He is."
That was one point of view, and, without going through the various other occasions when that took place, if Senators will look at the Dáil Debates of 24th November last, they will find that Deputy de Valera came down heavily not on the side of the President but on the side of the Government and said that the Government was the head of the State.
Now, that is the position. There in the Constitution somebody who had certain functions, all of an internal character, and was described as the President of Ireland but who had no functions whatever, who, according to Deputy de Valera himself during the recent debates, could not act in any way in connection with our external affairs. He was the only person in the State who could not—the office boy could do it; the Taoiseach could do it; the Government could do it; but the one person who, one would think, would be the titular head of the State could not interfere in the slightest degree in connection with our external affairs. There is the controversy which has gone on for the past 12 years— futile, barren, endless, leading nowhere —and all the time—Senators will have to realise this, no matter what anybody says—we were not recognised internationally as a republican State.
I understand that Deputy de Valera takes a particular point of view and it is a point of view—which I do not want to controvert, except to the extent to which I have done so, which is necessary—that we had a republican Constitution—with that I agree fully— and that that was recognised, that we were recognised as an independent republic by outside States. We never were. There was a considerable amount of elaborate make-believe, illusions on both sides, almost collusion —the British and others saying: "You are in the Commonwealth and have allegiance to the King", and the Irish Government saying: "We are a republic", and the King put in an undignified position which could be occupied equally well by a clerk in a Government office. If there were no other reasons than those, I think that any Government, faced with the conditions with which we were faced and in the circumstances in which we became the Government this year, would have felt entirely justified, indeed, coerced, at some time to bring in this Bill.
Deputy de Valera, in a Dáil adjournment debate last year, said: "Bring in your Bill and we will support it". In the course of his remarks during some portion of the debates in the Dáil—I think the Committee Stage—he said that he had said that maliciously, of malice aforethought, in order—if I may paraphrase him, although it is a very dangerous thing to paraphrase Deputy de Valera—to egg us on to bring in this Bill. Whether we were egged on by that or not, here it is, and everything I have said would justify bringing in this measure. We have hopes, convictions, certainties, that, when this Bill is brought into operation, all that futile discussion which has distracted our energies away from the fundamental matters, from matters of vital importance in connection with social and economic affairs, will be ended and we can at least know that, when this measure becomes operative, all that futile controversy will pass into the books of constitutional law and into the law schools. If anybody wishes to go into it as a matter of history, he may do so, but we will be finished with it. All that futile discussion will be ended, and we will have put our country internationally in a dignified position and taken it out of the undignified position in which it was up to this.
Anybody who has been abroad must know that all the time one was abroad one was constantly asserting one's position. One had to keep up the dignity of this State, to allege that we were a republic and to maintain that particular attitude. We all did so, but we always had to be explaining and asserting, dodging and getting into a position where one found you had, inferentially, to recognise that the King, by virtue of his being used for certain purposes, was the head of this State, because we had no real head other than the King. We were in a completely undignified and impossible position internationally, and no matter what anybody says that is a fact.
As I emphasised in the course of the remarks I made in the Dáil, those reasons were cogent reasons, coercive reasons, for bringing in this Bill, but they were not the real reasons for doing so. We have had these arid discussions; we have had this pretence and this make-believe; but it was a pretence and make-believe which brought tragic consequences for this country. Throughout the whole course of the history of Ireland since 1922, we have had the spectacle of each successive Government having to take action against people who took up arms or used illegal methods to establish what they called an Irish Republic. The Government of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1932 went through an agony dealing with that situation. Irishmen were forced in an Irish Parliament because of illegalities, because people said—and some were very sincere—that they were going to get, by force, an Irish Republic, to bring in Public Safety Acts and other statutes and measures designed to secure internment without trial, with the consequence that, in such circumstances, Irish law made by an Irish Parliament was in danger of not getting the support and the respect due from Irishmen. We were criticised at that period, from 1922 to 1932, for what had to be done against these people. From 1932 to 1948, the same sad story is to be told by our successors—hunger strikes, imprisonments, internments, shootings and hangings all during that period, by Irishmen of Irishmen, in pursuance of the Acts of Parliament passed by Irish Deputies and Senators, and all because of a futile controversy. We want to end that, and it is to end it that this Bill is brought in.
Is it worth while to hold on to this dubious link with the Crown, and thereby leave it open to another set of young Irish people to feel that they have a conscientious duty to take up arms here against brother-Irishmen in order to establish an Irish Republic, when we do not know whether we are in or out of the Commonwealth and when nobody can say where we are or what our constitutional or international status is? Is it worth while to keep this tenuous link with the Crown, to keep us within the Commonwealth, as is said, and retain a position in which both we and the British institution of the Crown are insulted, to keep us on the boundary not knowing whether we are in or out of the Commonwealth and neither in nor out? We wanted to end that, and I have made it perfectly clear to those Senators who wish to read what I said in the Dáil that that is our primary purpose in bringing in this Bill. I want to appeal to those people whose sentiments are sentiments of loyalty to the institution of the Crown to consider the remarks I then made and to consider that this measure, in our view, is vital in the national interests of Ireland, and that they come first.
When the 1936 Act was passed and was taken over by virtue of the provision in the Constitution of 1937, that was the position, whatever its interpretation may be—whether it was a republican Constitution with authority in it to use an outside organ for specified limited purposes or whether it made no fundamental difference in our relationships with the members of the Commonwealth—whatever the position was —there was no going back from that for any Irish Government. We were either to remain in that undignified position, insulting the British Crown and insulting the Irish nation on a certain interpretation of the document, or to go forward. We are going forward because it is in the interests of peace, order and the end of bitterness between Irishmen. That is our primary purpose. All the other matters I have referred to are only secondary, but they justify in secondary fashion what we are doing.
We saw in the circumstances created when this Government was formed an opportunity which did not exist before of taking a step which, we believed, was in the best interests of the Irish nation, the Irish people and all sections of the Irish people, to put an end to that bitterness, to put a stop to the disputes which clogged our energies, prevented our national advance and prevented our fulfilling economic destinies.
The months went on and this new Government was formed, and its members are now more and more closely in unison in our outlook and in our policy. We have with us, and still have in the Cabinet and in the Dáil, representatives of those people who had fought in arms and had kept arms, some from 1922 to February of this year, in an unconstitutional way, seeking to reach the position where this country would be recognised as an independent Irish republic. I want to repeat, and am going to repeat, ad nauseam if necessary, that the object of the Government in bringing in this Bill is to take the guns out of Irish politics—and it is going to do it, whatever the consequences may be. Whatever my own political fortune or that of the Government may be in the future, we are absolutely satisfied that this measure is essential, if peace and order amongst Irishmen is to be achieved, if bitterness is to be stopped, if there is to be an end and a period to that frightful struggle between brother and brother, father and son, mother and child, that has taken place within the last 25 years. I do not care about a link with the Crown, or the Commonwealth and the Crown, if I can achieve, and this Government can achieve, that situation where there is an end to the bitterness, where there is peace and unity in this country.
Having achieved that, we will have done as well something which is worth while. We have always taken the view that it was in the interests of this country, from the material point of view and from other points of view, that we should have as close association as possible with those countries to which so many of our people have emigrated, and in which they have left so many of their descendants who, never abandoning the allegiance they owe to the country of their birth, still retain in their blood their allegiance to the Irish people and the Irish nation. We have had great ties of friendship and great ties of blood with our people in Canada and Australia, and, to some extent, in New Zealand. So far as our ancient enemy, Great Britain, is concerned, our missionary priests and nuns and brothers, our lay teachers and doctors, our workers, our craftsmen, have gone over there. If there is necessity for them to go over there, if the economic conditions here are such that they must go over, it is better that they should go over in circumstances where they can do a fruitful day's work for the country of their adoption and themselves. Is it not better that Irishmen who have to go to England should go there to earn their living and do productive work, and is it not well and worth while taking away this ridiculous so-called link with the Crown, and our diaphanous connection with the British Commonwealth of Nations, to achieve that never again would Irishmen go over to put bombs into public buildings in England, to do illegalities in England? Is not that something worth achieving, and can not all sections of the Irish people, whether or not they belong to the Protestant community, which was known as the minority in recent times, work together for the achievement of that end?
That is our purpose and our aim. That it will be achieved, I believe, is apparent from the peace and order that have subsisted since the 18th February in this country. Not for 50 years has there been such peace, such absence of lawlessness, such complete absence of gunman work, with no military tribunals operating and no person interned without trial. That has been the condition here in the last nine months and when this Bill is through, when it becomes law and comes into operation, it will be a guarantee for the continuance of that state of affairs, which is so eminently desirable and which transcends all other considerations.
The other line of criticism is that we are doing nothing. The second section of this Bill declares that "the description of the State shall be the Republic of Ireland". The suggestion has been put forward that all that this Bill is doing is recognising an existing condition. I do not care whether this Bill declares, confirms, describes or recognises a republican Statehood for this country. Each person who has his point of view on that may keep it, so far as I am concerned. That section makes it clear, at all events, to outside people as well as to our own, what the status of this country is. Deputies will remember that Article 5 of the Constitution provides that: "Ireland is a sovereign, independent, democratic State". Article 4 prescribes that: "The name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland". There is no description in that Constitution of the kind of State it is. Inferentially, it may be regarded as a republican Constitution. I have specifically stated in the Dáil on the Final Stage of this Bill, that I recognise it as such and that I have recognised it as such from very shortly after it was enacted, notwithstanding certain criticism that could have been made and notwithstanding certain damaging arguments that could have been put forward. I stated publicly in University College, Cork, in 1936—it was in the public Press—that once that Constitution was enacted by the Irish people I would accept it as such.
It is a republican Constitution, republican in form, but when you find an Article in it which provides that a monarchy can be used for the vital purposes of our international affairs, then this State ceases to be a republic. When anyone says that this Bill is doing nothing of any significance, I say there is no force in their argument. This Bill is doing something of farreaching consequences. If it were not, we would not have had all the hullabaloo in the inspired Press during the months before its introduction. We have had superimposed upon a Constitution which appears to be republican in form the shadow of the Crown. The functions that have been, in fact and in practice, fulfilled by the organ of the British Crown will now be transferred to and exercisable by that person who will be, and who ought to have been, the head of this State, the President of Ireland. They will be taken from the British Crown and given to the only person, up to this, who could not exercise them, the President of Ireland. He will be the head of the State and he will exercise them as such and he will be recognised as such internationally; and, for the first time, in consequence of what is in Section 2 of this Bill, we will be recognised internationally as an independent Irish republic.
The third section vests the powers in the President and comment is not called from me on it.
I would like, before I pass from Section 2, to refer to the use of the word "Ireland". Those people who in the Dáil felt that they were bound to support this Bill and still had to say something against it, of course had to refer to the fact that this was not a 32-county republic—and it is not. Nevertheless, the use of the word "Ireland" there is strictly and legally and constitutionally accurate—accurate in constitutional law and in international law. We do, of course, declare in our Constitution, by Article 2, that "The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas". That could be regarded by outside jurists or people who were adverse to our point of view, as merely nothing more than the assertion of an untenable claim, or at best the assertion of a claim to a position which exists de jure but not de facto. Actually, of course, the position is that we cannot exercise control over the six north-eastern counties. We have that right de jure, we have it morally and we also have it by virtue of the Treaty of the 6th December, 1921.
In Article 1 of that Treaty, Ireland was given the constitutional status of Canada and the other members of the Commonwealth of Nations. I emphasise for Senators that the first word of this Treaty and the first clause in that Constitution is "Ireland", which shall have the same constitutional status, etc. In Clauses 11 and 12 of the Treaty, which provided for the secession of the six north-eastern counties' jurisdiction from the area of the Parliament of Ireland to be set up under the Treaty, it is provided that, until the expiration of the month granted by the Treaty to the six north-eastern counties' Parliament during which they could opt out of this Treaty, the powers of the Parliament of the new State were not to be exercisable as respects Northern Ireland.
Quite clearly, the Treaty gave Ireland a Parliament with jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland, and Northern Ireland had power to opt out, but pending that month during which they could exercise this option, the powers of the Parliament of Ireland were not exercisable —but the powers were there, given by this Treaty. When the Northern Ireland Parliament opted out under Clause 12 of the Treaty, as they did, it was provided by Clause 12 that, on the exercise of that option, "the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland, and the provisions of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 (including those relating to the Council of Ireland) shall, so far as they relate to Northern Ireland, continue to be of full force and effect."
In other words, the Treaty made Ireland a new State; if the Northern Government opted out, as they did, what they got was what was got under the Act of 1920. Even the Council of Ireland was to stand. And what did they get? Under the Act of 1920, they got the jurisdiction of a subordinate Parliament. The jurisdiction of a subordinate Parliament is strictly limited to what is bestowed upon it by the statute which created it and that jurisdiction, so far as Northern Ireland was concerned, was only to certain named Parliamentary counties. Sub-section (2) of Section 1 of the Act of 1920 provided:
"For the purposes of the Act, Northern Ireland shall consist of the Parliamentary counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, and the Parliamentary boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry...."
Therefore, the position was, and the position is, that the jurisdiction of the Northern Parliament is confined to those names, specified Parliamentary counties and boroughs, and if I may, without going into legalistic discussions or arguments, just state the fact shortly, Parliamentary counties and boroughs are places where you vote for Parliament, and they are land areas, and the inevitable and logical conclusion is that, even from the point of view of British theory under that Treaty, apart from the assertion of our moral claim and right in Article 2 of our Constitution, the position is that we have the whole of Ireland, minus certain Parliamentary counties, the whole of Ireland, North and South, including the territorial seas right around the whole coast of Ireland. We have that under British theory and British law, and therefore, the description of Ireland is the proper description. People in the Northern Parliament have jibed at us. Modern politicians have jibed at us for the use of the Irish word "Eire" to describe our country, and the adjectives "Eirish" and "Eireannish" and all the rest of it emanated from British sources and Irish sources sometimes. They have used it as a derogatory term. They cannot use it any more because we now have the position that we have the Republic of Ireland under the statute law of this country, and international courtesy and comity must demand and require, and will demand and achieve that the sort of derogatory jibes that have been thrown at us in the years past will cease.
There is the justification for this Bill. We were told that it would end any faint hope of securing the unification of our country. I have dealt with that fully in my Second Reading speech in the Dáil and I do not intend to repeat what I said here. Even under this Treaty, when Northern Ireland opted out, the Council of Ireland was still to continue and perhaps that may have been a faint indication of the desire of the British people and the British Parliament and the British Government that there should be the ultimate union of Ireland because, under the Act of 1920 which set up this Council of Ireland, the purpose for which it was set up was to achieve the ultimate unity of Ireland. Section 2 of the Act of 1920 provides that with a view to the eventual establishment of a Parliament for the whole of Ireland and to bringing about harmonious action between the Parliaments and Governments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland there should be established a council to be called the Council of Ireland. Even that wretched Act of 1920 had for its aim, and even its principal aim, the unity of Ireland. That aim was preserved in the provisions that I have referred to in the Treaty—clauses 11 and 12.
Those words, pregnant words, significant words, in Section 2 of the Act of 1920 have been conveniently forgotten by the people who speak now as if they had a title deed from the Act of 1920 to complete and conclusive jurisdiction for ever under the Act of 1920. In recent months, or years, the phrase has become current that Ulster must not be coerced. I described that recently, and I reiterate what I said then, as hypocritical humbug. That Act of 1920 brought into the jurisdiction of the Northern Ireland Parliament masses of Irish Catholics, against their will. They coerced them to their will, in Tyrone, Fermanagh, South Down, Derry City and other homogeneous areas. It lies not in the mouth of any Northern Ireland politician or any British politician or statesman to speak about wooing Ulster and not coercing her. Ulster is allowed to coerce and has coerced our Irish Catholic people for the last 28 years. It is about time that that stopped. That is the sort of thing that gains currency throughout the world and gives the smug politician in England who wants to dodge his responsibilities an excuse for not doing his duty and the duty that lies upon the British people and the British Government to undo the wrong they did in the Act of 1920. At all events, when that malicious propaganda has been set aside we can face this position that when this Bill becomes operative we will have taken this problem of Partition away from where the British have been anxious to keep it for some time past, a position where they say that this problem is an Irish problem to be solved between the North and the South, thereby letting them out. We shall put it upon the plain of international affairs, to which it belongs. We will be completely independent, sovereign and free, and so recognised internationally when this Act is passed and comes into operation.
We can use that position, and will use it, whatever Government is in power, to see that that problem is solved internationally, if it is not solved by the North and ourselves. That will be, in my view, an advantage that we gained. We have got nothing out of the position for the last 28 years, no wooing, no offers of friendship, no offers of the grant of privilege being any avail. It is idle to say that when Deputy de Valera did hold out the promise, as he did hold it out to them over two and a half years ago, he was prepared to accept the position as it stands at the moment, this degrading position of the Crown outside and the republic inside, if that would create a bridge across which North could walk to South and create union. That particular offer was ignored and, as I have said, and I repeat here, just as those people, the Government and the Parties that supported the Treaty from 1922 to 1932 in the hope that thereby unity of Ireland would be achieved as well as the freedom of our country brought about, they were subject to vituperation as being "pro-British"; we were told we were a Commonwealth party, as a term of opprobrium; we were told we were not Irish, and all the time, we were hoping that the position created when we were a full member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, with all it implies, would induce those people in the North to co-operate with us. Never once did they walk an inch of the road. "Not an inch" has been their answer up to this and will be until they are coerced by public opinion, international public opinion, and the changing circumstances of a changing world to take up a different attitude from what they took up in the years gone by.
There is one matter that I wish to mention before I conclude. In the course of numbers of articles on the awful consequences that were going to happen when we became a republic and discarded this so-called link with the Crown, and when we ceased being on the boundary of the Commonwealth of Nations, the things that would happen to our citizenship rights and our trade preference, in periodicals which ought to have known better, in newspapers which ought to have been more fully informed, statements were made which had no basis in fact or in law. All these matters have been arranged between Great Britain and ourselves, about citizenship rights, free passage of men and free passage of goods subject to trade agreements with Great Britain and the other members of the Commonwealth of Nations. They recognise and will recognise the position there will be under this Bill internationally when it becomes operative but I do wish, for the purpose of the record and also for the purpose of the information of the Irish people and, in order that they may take little notice of some of these things that have been disseminated by the Press in the last few months, and doubtless will be continued to be disseminated in the months to come, to give them some indication of what trade preference rights and citizenship rights are.
Citizenship rights have always been a source of conflict between this country and Great Britain. We have always held to our Irish nationality and in discussions at Imperial Conferences we fought all the time for the recognition of the Irishman and the Irishwoman as a separate Irish nationality. The British insisted on British citizenship and British subject. It was not until this year that our rights as a separate nationality were recognised and they will be continued to be recognised under the Act that was passed a few months ago after consultation between the Government of Great Britain and ourselves.
As regards trade preference, one would think from the observations of newspapers, and even such a reputable periodical as the Economist, that these trade preferences were something that were given to us from the bounty of the British people or the bounty of the other Governments of the members of the Commonwealth of Nations, because we were members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Everyone who has had anything to do with these matters knows that in recent years preferences depend, not upon status or membership of the Commonwealth of Nations, but in the first and fundamental instance, upon a business basis. It is good business and it is reciprocal business, and that is the basis on which Ireland got preferences from, and gave preferences to, the members of the Commonwealth of Nations. We did not get them because we were a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. We got them because of the agreements that were made between members of the Commonwealth of Nations, and because it is good business. Some of these newspaper articles would appear almost an invitation, an active invitation, almost an encouragement, to foreign countries or foreign nations to come in, after this Bill becomes operative, and demand from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand under the clause in their treaties dealing with most favoured nations treatment, similar treatment to that existing among some of the nations in the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth preference system in its present form is based on trade agreements concluded at Ottawa in the year 1932 between Great Britain and other than this country and by some each of the Commonwealth countries Commonwealth countries with one another. We made a trade agreement with Britain in 1938 and another one this year, in July. On the 20th August, 1932—Senators will remember that at that time the economic war had just started and no agreement was made with England—Ireland concluded agreements with Canada and South Africa, and a further agreement was concluded with South Africa on the 30th July, 1935. Under these agreements preferences were exchanged and it was because of these agreements that preferences were exchanged, and those preferences exchanged between Ireland and the Commonwealth and British Empire countries other than Great Britain, Canada and the Union of South Africa are a matter of practice and there is not on either side any contractual obligation to give or contractual right to receive.
The trade preferences granted by Ireland are based on Section 8 of the British Finance Act, 1919, as adapted, and that section provides for preferential rates of duty on certain goods specified in a schedule. The section was suitably adapted to Ireland in Section 15, sub-section (4) of the Irish Finance Act, 1923. Following the Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement, 1938, provision for the granting of special preferential rates for certain British and Canadian goods was made in Section 6 of the Finance (Agreement with the United Kingdom) Act, 1938.
The Commonwealth preference system, accordingly, is not a fixed arrangement under which each member gives and receives the same treatment, nor is it something which depends for its continuance on the adherence of all members, as any particular country, except Great Britain, by terminating its contract or contracts could put itself outside the operation of the system. Great Britain is the key point of the system, she alone has agreements with all the Commonwealth countries.
Senators have heard of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade concluded at Geneva in 1947. We are not a party to that. We have not adhered to that agreement, but all the Commonwealth countries have, and that agreement and the draft charter of the proposed international trade organisation specifically exempt from the general requirement of most favoured nation treatment all preferences in force on the 10th April, 1947, exclusively between two or more of the following territories: Great Britain and Northern Ireland and dependent territories thereof; Canada; Commonwealth of Australia and its dependent territories; New Zealand and its dependent territories; Union of South Africa, including South-West Africa; Ireland, India, Newfoundland, Southern Rhodesia, Ceylon and Burma. Ireland is definitely mentioned in that general agreement on tariffs and trade, although we are not a party to it, and it recognises that this country can have those preferences that existed on that particular date irrespective of our status. It is not because of our status that we are referred to in that international agreement.
We have not yet decided whether we will adhere to or become parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. We have complete freedom at the moment to give any preferences we like. We could not, of course, receive new preferences from Canada, South Africa or Great Britain. I should like to give a few figures to Senators in order to have them on record to dissipate this nonsense about the awful things that might happen to us if Great Britain refused or said: "Look at what we are going to do and the awful things that will happen". The fact of the matter is that as far as preferences are concerned, Great Britain and other Commonwealth countries get as much, if not more out of them than we do. To assert to the contrary is either to be misinformed or is the sort of propaganda in so-called reputable newspapers and periodicals that is something that can only be dictated by malicious motives.
Of Ireland's total imports in 1939, 56 per cent. came from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 10 per cent. from other Commonwealth countries and 34 from non - Commonwealth countries. What were our exports during that period? In 1939 Great Britain and Northern Ireland took 93.6 of our exports, other Commonwealth countries took only 1.1 per cent. and non-Commonwealth countries 5.3 per cent. That was in 1939. For imports in 1947 the percentages were 41 per cent. from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 11 per cent. from other Commonwealth countries and 48 per cent. from non-Commonwealth countries. Our exports for that year to Great Britain were 88 per cent.—yet we hear of the awful consequences of not getting preferences —other Commonwealth countries .5 per cent., and non-Commonwealth countries 10.8 per cent.
In 1939 Ireland granted trade preferences to Great Britain on goods amounting in value to £8,000,000. In the same year Great Britain granted preferences to Ireland on goods amounting in value to about £4,000,000. No preference, of course, was granted to Ireland on live cattle exported to Great Britain to the value of £11.64 millions, but importation was free of duty. In 1947 trade preferences were granted by Ireland to Great Britain amounting to £18,000,000 approximately. In the same year Great Britain granted preferences to Ireland on Irish goods to a value of £6.5 millions. No preferences were granted on live cattle exported to Great Britain to the value of about £13,000,000. Ireland is of course practically the only exporter of live cattle to Great Britain.
The trade returns clearly show that Irish imports from Commonwealth countries have been very much greater than the value of goods imported by Commonwealth countries from Ireland. In 1939 Ireland imported goods valued £4.5 millions from Commonwealth countries other than Britain and, in that year, exported goods to the value of only £.29 million to Commonwealth countries other than Britain. In 1947 Ireland imported goods to a value of £14.1 millions from Commonwealth countries other than Britain. In that year exports to Commonwealth countries other than Britain amounted only to £.21 million. It is abundantly clear that the advantages of these trade preferences between Ireland and all Commonwealth countries are like trade generally of mutual advantage and essentially reciprocal in their nature.
An analysis of the trade returns should convince any interested party of the facts of the position, and it is quite incomprehensible that there should be such misunderstanding and misrepresentation as to suggest that where Ireland was concerned trade preferences brought substantially more advantages to Ireland than to the other countries to which preferences are granted by Ireland.
May I pass in retrospect here to some of the economic Commonwealth conferences I attended during the time I was in a position to do so? I saw the representatives of these Commonwealth countries arguing and getting the last ounce out of their mother country, Great Britain. As far as economics was concerned each side bargained and argued just the same as one would bargain over the price of a cow in a fair. There was no sentiment. It was business all the time. But it becomes sentiment when we break this link with the Crown and get out of the Commonwealth.
To come down to hard facts I want to have this fully appreciated. The trade returns should convince anyone interested in the facts of the situation. It is not appreciated, owing to misunderstanding and misrepresentation, that trade preferences granted by Ireland brought as much advantage as preferences granted to Ireland. I do not want to have a competition as to whether we get more out of them or whether Canada or Australia get more. The essential fact is that trade preferences are all a matter of good business bargaining between different countries. There is no sentiment about it at all.
The Economist on November 27 of this year had an article which I wish to controvert authoritatively. This is an extract from the article commenting on the Republic of Ireland Bill:—
"The system of imperial preference rests upon the doctrine that the members of the British Commonwealth, through their common allegiance to the Crown are not foreign countries to each other. It is only for this reason that foreign countries having most-favoured-nation treaties with the United Kingdom are unable to claim the preferential rates of duty on their goods. If at some future date, say, Denmark claims to be treated on the same footing as Eire then there can be no doubt at all which alternative will be chosen in London: it will not be to admit Denmark and every other foreign country to the circle of imperial preference but to expel Eire from it. It should be very clearly understood that any harm the Irish may do to themselves in this way is neither the wish nor the responsibility of Great Britain."
Fortunately for this country the sentiments underlying that article are not the sentiments that actuated Dr. Evatt, Mr. St. Laurent, Mr. Fraser or Mr. Attlee. They recognised the real position. They recognised that there is a community of interest between countries and that it was of common benefit to them that the existing position should be maintained. The point of view put forward by the writer in The Economist is clearly due to a misunderstanding of the position.
The argument is based on a misunderstanding. Since Britain became a party to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, it is not true to say "that foreign countries having most-favoured-nation treaties with the United Kingdom are unable to claim the preferential rates of duty on their goods", merely because Commonwealth countries having common allegiance to the Crown "are not foreign countries to each other". The fact is that if, in present circumstances, Denmark were to claim to be treated on the same footing as Ireland, the British Government would be obliged under the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to resist Denmark's claim by indicating that, while preferences in force on the 10th April, 1947, may be maintained, no new preferences can be created after that date.
To say that Britain would choose not "to admit Denmark and every other foreign country to the circle of imperial preference" but to "expel Eire from it" is to suggest that the "circle of imperial preference" is a club from which members may be expelled. This, of course, is altogether at variance with the facts. Existing preferences between Britain and Ireland are based not on membership of any club, but on specific trade agreements. To deprive one country or the other of these existing preferences it would be necessary to renounce these trade agreements.
I am afraid I am occupying more time than I intended, but I wish to make it clear, and to repeat that this Bill was neither conceived nor designed in any hostility to the British Crown or to the British people, or to the Canadian people, the people of Australia, the people of South Africa, India or Pakistan. It was conceived and designed because the Government felt the interests of this country required it, that peace and harmony amongst our own people demanded it. They felt also, once this was passed, that so far from there being any less cordiality between Great Britain and this country, there would be more cordiality and greater co-operation. We were told that we were going to lose the advantage of being in the Commonwealth. I had some experience of imperial conferences of this kind. We were supplied with information dealing with international affairs from the British Foreign Office and Dominions Office. There was not a single conference which any member representing this country attended for very many years past. There has not been any interchange of information, and no co-operation of the type that exists between British Commonwealth of Nations.
What is the use of talking about our being a member of the British Commonwealth or the advantages we are getting from it when that is the actual position? We were suffering from such national complexes and inhibitions that for years past we were not able to send a representative to honour the dead of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the other nations at the Cenotaph. We were able to do it this year because we had ceased to have these national complexes and inhibitions. We were able to carry out our international courtesies and obligations because we were no longer self-conscious. We were able to carry out our diplomatic courtesies in a way that it was not possible to carry them out— and in fact they were not carried out —for the last few years. That is of more advantage than the so-called link with the "half Crown" or than being "on the boundary." There is a greater chance for close co-operation between the members of the British Commonwealth and ourselves than ever before. The Commonwealth has an abundance of friendship and goodwill for us. That friendship and goodwill did not abate in the slightest degree after I had announced in Canada the intention of the Government to bring in this measure. On the contrary, when I explained to Mr. Mackenzie King the purposes of this Bill, I received nothing but goodwill and sympathy. I have received sympathy from Mr. Evatt and Mr. Fraser from South Africa and from the British Government. Anybody now who says that in this Bill we are doing something to disrupt the delicate mechanism of the British Commonwealth is saying something which is not only contrary to the best interests of this country but is doing something to disrupt the good feeling which is there now and which will improve when this Bill comes into operation.
The history of this country shows two things. It shows that every settlement between Ireland and Great Britain always came too late, and it shows that every settlement that was made made its contribution to the quota of friendship and goodwill between Irishmen and the British people. This measure, having been received in the atmosphere of goodwill, harmony and co-operation in which it has been received by Mr. Attlee and his Government in England and by the generality of the British people, will add a further measure of goodwill between the two countries.
Only one thing is now left standing between the complete reconciliation of the two countries and the two peoples, and that is the solution of Partition. As I said in the Dáil, the fact that we have that problem to solve and to face ought not, and will not, prevent our taking our proper place in the councils of the family of nations of the world, and far from adopting or continuing a policy of isolation, we have cleared away all ambiguity, all doubt regarding our international status and our constitutional status. We will give to the world our quota of peace I hope in the difficult times that are coming.