Let me say at once that, convinced by a study of the Dáil debates and by the speeches made in this House, I intend to give this Bill my support, and I believe that in doing so I express the decision of a large number of my constituents, namely, the graduates, and especially the younger graduates, of Dublin University, men and women eager to contribute wholeheartedly to our country's welfare. Let me say, too, that I must dissociate myself most emphatically from the disparaging remarks which have been made here on all sides and in the Dáil about lawyers in general and constitutional lawyers in particular, though the prejudice, I regret to say, goes back to Plato. In a matter of law, if we cannot trust the consensus of legal opinion, we had better emigrate to some jungle where the rule of law is still unknown. If, in a matter of constitutional law, we, as the supreme jury of this nation, do not base our decisions on the most careful and unprejudiced arguments of constitutional lawyers, we are repudiating the essentials of civilisation. In the dangers and perplexities inherent in the Government of every country, the commonsense politician and the learned lawyer should be in the closest and sincerest alliance. Such an alliance, I believe, is nearer full achievement now than ever since 1921, and I welcome its approach. Speaking, therefore, as a neophyte in politics, as one who is learning the difficult and perplexing art of politics, let me say that I dissociate myself from the disparaging remarks about politicians, and, speaking as the representative of a university which has given many legal luminaries to this country in the past and is doing so at present and will, I hope, do so in the future, I dissociate myself from any prejudice against the lawyers of our country.
Only a few weeks ago, the Taoiseach did us the honour of visiting Trinity College twice, and may I say that the members of Trinity College deeply appreciate these visits by the head of our State, and Ministers of our State? The time and energy they spend in coming to visit us is deeply appreciated. On the occasion of his visit, the Taoiseach appealed to the younger people in Ireland to rid themselves of this prejudice against politics, and he appealed in a way which struck a chord in the hearts of many of his audience, and, if I can do anything to help the Taoiseach's wishes in that matter, I will do it gladly.
I have said that I believe I represent a large number of my fellow-graduates. I think that I had better present my credentials as an informed spokesman for the younger generation of the religious minority. In the past ten years, I have addressed and argued with audiences, large and small, in Belfast, my native city, Derry, Armagh, Dublin, Mullingar, Portarlington, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Tralee, on the problems of our religious minority. What I have to say in what follows is an honest attempt to express the opinions I met in these frank and vigorous debates. May I say with emphasis that among the thousands of young Protestants with whom I spoke and argued, there was a cordial and ungrudging recognition of the scrupulous fairness of our successive Governments to us? Without any sense of inferiority, and without any sense of superiority, as free Irishmen to free Irishmen, we accept that consistent maintenance of impartial justice as worthy of our country's most honourable traditions.
I have said that I intend to support this Bill, but I cannot end simply with that affirmation. My support is based on reasoned conviction and not on passion, not on education, not on environment, and not on heredity, though I, too, can claim, as many have claimed, a distant connection with an Irish leader who died in '98, and I, too, was born in Belfast. But since my support is based on reasoning and reasoning through a very complex situation, reasoning which I believe most of my constituents are going through as well, I must, with your indulgence, take this opportunity of clarifying the causes of that reasoning. May I say that I think one of the best functions of this Seanad is to promote a mutual understanding in a sympathetic and intimate atmosphere of this kind? If I can do anything in the future to promote that understanding, I will do it with all my heart.
In the debate in the Dáil and Seanad, there have been many references to the views of the religious and political minorities. In almost every case, the comments from both Government and Opposition have shown that scrupulous regard for democratic justice to which I have already referred. But, with the best goodwill in the world, many of the speeches suggested a rather confused notion of the nature of the political opinions of the religious minority. May I, both for the sake of better understanding and as a preface to my comments on the Bill, clarify this point? Take, for example, the use of the term "ex-Unionist." It has been commented on already in these debates. It applies to one class and one class only, that is, the class of people who came to political maturity before the Treaty, and who, after the Treaty, gave up the Unionism that they held before that. It is a precise term, and should not be used either loosely or in abuse.
The fact is that there are four main sections in the religious minority of this country. There are what I may call the revolutionary republicans, those who are in the tradition of Tone and Emmet. Let me emphasise that some of those still living fought and suffered for the republic from 1916 on and suffered for it till very recent times. Some of my own friends are amongst those and I speak for them. This was a section of the religious minority to which a man who lived in this House belonged, who sat at these fireplaces with his republican wife from France. I refer to Lord Edward Fitzgerald. I am sure that, at the debates this evening and yesterday his shade must have been watching us with the acutest interest and sympathy, because we are doing something to-day that he died to do in 1798. I do not think that, when we speak disparagingly, as some do, of the religious minority, we should forget such revolutionary republicans as he.
There is another group, what I call the constitutional republicans, more in the tradition of Davis and Parnell. These in most cases have suffered less in the past and, as a result, have less credit now, but I would emphasise that these are as strong in their loyalty and conviction in favour of the republic as any member of the Irish nation. They are ruled by reason rather than by feeling, by head rather than by heart; but, honestly, in the long run, I think we can rely for endurance and firmness on the reasoning republican rather than on the unreasoning republican, if such there be.
The third group—and this is the group for which I ask for sympathy here—is that which may be called the Free Staters or the ex-Free Staters, members of the Commonwealth Party. These are more in the tradition of Grattan and Butt. They had no antagonism to England in so far as England was prepared to allow complete freedom to Ireland. These are the people who are in perplexity and difficulty now and I ask you to help them. They are trying to find their way, to strike a balance between a genuine desire for independence and a genuine desire for co-operation in the Commonwealth. I will speak more of them later, as I believe we must consider them thoroughly here to-day.
The fourth group is that of the Unionists—Unionists, plain and simple. A graduate of my own university was Edward Carson, a southern Irishman, a Unionist. They believed, and still believe, that the Union of Ireland with Great Britain is the best thing.
To apply the term ex-Unionist to any of these is manifestly misleading.
There is another difference to be considered, a difference in age. The post-Treaty generation, to which a recent speaker has referred, the young men and women who grew up and came to political maturity after 1922, the under-forties on the whole, did not begin to think or feel in any real sense politically till about 18 or 15 years ago. It is a ridiculous anachronism to call these ex-Unionists. These anachronisms are not confined to one side of the country at all. It is some 12 years only since I was accused of being a Home Ruler in 1936 in my mother's drawing room—a Home Ruler in 1936! It is as futile to call these people ex-Unionists as to call many of the respected members of our present Government Home Rulers. In fact, it comes to this: the same shades of political opinion that are found in the majority are found in the minority, though it is quite clear the proportions of the extreme left and the extreme right are different.
An earlier speaker has referred to another misunderstanding about that section of our people in the Twenty-Six Counties who are properly described as Unionists, not ex-Unionists. The Unionists are not confined to the religious minority. That point must be emphasised. I know more than a few of the religious majority in this country who hold staunchly to Unionism in the full sense. Though I do not share their views, I think it my duty to emphasise that the political convictions of these southern Unionists should have our respect and genuine consideration, not only because we are a democracy, but also because our hopes for a truly peaceful settlement of the Partition problem are enmeshed in the destinies of these Unionists, North and South. One Senator very recently, I regret to say, has suggested that such people should be driven out —I use his own term. Frankly, this sounds to me more like totalitarianism than Irish democracy. I am satisfied that it is not the voice of our ruling statesmen, and I mention it only to dismiss it.
Such is the complexity of the politics of the religious minority that to suggest that their attitude to this Bill is simple and undifferentiated is gravely misleading. I am sorry if I seem to be complicating matters, but it is my business to disentangle complications.
All this is more complicated by the fact that the Bill is complex, too. The Bill involves the setting up of a sovereign republic, but it also involves our relationship with the nations inside the Commonwealth and, by implication, our whole foreign policy. A decision on this Bill is clear for two sections of the religious minority. The republicans accept it gladly, the Unionists reject it firmly, but the remaining group, those who value our connection with the Commonwealth, have been perplexed and troubled and, in some cases, misled on this Bill. I do not say they have been misled simply by members of the Dáil and Seanad, but misled by other sources of information, too. In my opinion, many of those, like myself, would support this Bill, but they need reassurance on certain points.
Let me be entirely frank about this. The political thinking of what would once be described as Anglo-Irishmen, now properly described as Irishmen, in this country is not easy. It is not easy for a young politician to find his way between the conflicting elements in our State, North and South. Family interests may pull him in one direction, education in another, his reason and his passions in another direction. I am voicing my own particular feelings when I ask for your sympathetic attention in this matter, because I represent a generation that is slowly taking up its definite orientation in Irish politics. We must do it with caution; we will do it with sincerity. I appeal to you then as a neophyte in politics and as a representative of that minority for your sympathetic hearing.
There are three difficulties in this Bill, and I want to face them frankly. The first is the question of secession from the Commonwealth, so-called. That term has been challenged and been challenged rightly. The second is the need that has been expressed by some for a definite mandate from the people for this Bill. The third is the suggestion which has been made that our foreign policy in future may be progressively isolationst until the country is united. These are the three difficulties I think we must face.
This Bill has been represented in some quarters as a precipitate and injudicious secession from the Commonwealth. Until I studied the debates in the Dáil and heard the Taoiseach's exposition and that of Senator Douglas and others in this House, I took this view, and intended to oppose such a secession on the ground that it would curtail our practical freedom. I am now satisfied that the Commonwealth connection has been, as the Taoiseach said yesterday, a dead root for 16 years, and, as far as international co-operation from this side of the Channel was concerned, it did more harm than good. Secondly, the declaration of the English Prime Minister seems to safeguard the privileges of our nationals for the present at least and, from the Taoiseach's introductory speech, I am convinced that he will do all in his power to preserve those privileges. For let me emphasise as a representative of men and women who sometimes like to go abroad, and often go abroad to come home again better and wiser people, that all these privileges of free come and go with every continent in the world mean a great deal to our graduates. For those who seek a livelihood or vocation abroad to lose that freedom of movement and employment which we have enjoyed in Great Britain and the Commonwealth would be calamitous for all the Irish universities. I believe my colleague in the National University will support me on that.
I do appeal to the Taoiseach or the Minister for External Affairs, if they can see their way to do it, to give me and those for whom I speak a clearer promise of active efforts to widen and strengthen these links, these practical, personal, golden links, with the nations of the Commonwealth. If that is possible, it will be a great reassurance to people who are trying to find their way in a complex situation. Personally, if it were possible, I should like to see the republic in a new, fully constitutional relationship with the Commonwealth, without any question of qualified sovereignty, as a mother nation of millions of Commonwealth citizens outside our own boundaries.
Perhaps I may be permitted to quote from a book which has just appeared, and which I do not think has reached this country, by a distinguished Irishman, Dr. Nicholas Mansergh, who was born and educated in this country. It is a fair-minded and impartial survey of the position. He calls it The Commonwealth and the Nations. His final paragraph is this:—
"The implications of Eire's relationship with the Commonwealth have led us, therefore, into new fields. They suggest a Commonwealth of the future in which there are both member States and associate States, the distinction between them being one, not of status, but of histroy, tradition and cultural background. By such a development, the Commonwealth could only be strengthened, for it would mean that political and constitutional realities would once again be brought into harmony. In this great community there would be a natural place for nations peopled by many races and speaking many tongues, but all, from their vast store of varied experience, contributing to the common good of the whole, and thereby to the peace of the world."
I wish we could bring ourselves at least close to that ideal.
The second difficulty is this. There have been accusations of false election pledges. Many sincerely patriotic voters are disturbed by this, not through malice, not through ancestral bitterness, but simply in terms of honesty. These sincerely patriotic voters do not wish to denounce or deplore or condemn; but they do wish for a better explanation. I, with them, know that our Taoiseach and our Ministers of State must have some good and honourable reason for their decision. If the Taoiseach would give us a clearer statement on this, I and they would welcome it. I wish it were possible for politicians to say: "I changed my mind." If he does not, I, for my part, will be satisfied that his silence or his vagueness is justified by reasons of high policy, or the greater good of the State. I am prepared to accept that, for I respect both his professional and his political integrity.
With these qualifications and one more which I must mention, I am convinced that some three-fourths at least of the younger generation of the religious minority will support this Bill and will give the new era that it should inaugurate in Irish politics their firm support. And I personally, though I cannot describe myself as a republican, welcome the proclamation of an unambiguous, sovereign republican, Ireland. I welcome it as a representative of the college whose members laid the foundation stones of this structure that has been almost completed to-day—Tone, Emmet, Mitchel, Davis, to name only a few. I welcome this decision as a member of the Church of Ireland whose sons also have had a distinguished record in Ireland's struggle for political and intellectual independence for over 200 years, from Dean Swift on through Grattan, Tone, Lord Edward, Smith O'Brien, Parnell and others whom I have named before.
Here in parenthesis I must take up Senator O'Farrell's reference to what he rather loosely called the Protestant religion. I deplore the introduction of any sectarian controversy into this House, but if it is introduced I mean to fight as hard as I can against it. He described the Protestant religion, as he calls it, as an easy one. I protest against this superficial and hurtful remark. I shall not argue it out here, but let me say that, apart from the sectarian issue involved, this is not the time in Ireland or Europe for quarrels or hard words among Christians. I will say no more on this, but I am sorry that Senator O'Farrell, whose speeches I have learned to admire in this House, should take it on himself to make a gratuitously hurtful remark of this kind. But let me add that I entirely agree with him for reasons I have already given, that the sooner the term Protestant is discarded as an equivalent term for Unionist or ex-Unionist the better for the clear thinking of us all.
One difficulty remains, and in a sense. I think it is the most constructive difficulty that I have to offer, if any difficulty can be described as constructive. This is the question of our international and external policy in general. Some remarks which I have read have suggested that the republic will not agree to full co-operation with the freedom-loving and peace-loving nations of the world until we achieve what is called the reintegration of our national territory. The Taoiseach's closing remarks yesterday contradicted this, but, frankly, I think we need a firmer and more definite assurance if we are to decide on this Bill with a full understanding of its international consequences. By the election of our country to the United Nations Assembly on Wednesday last, our Government has been given a unique opportunity of making such an assurance now. Am I wrong, Sir?