Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 10 Jan 1922

Vol. T No. 17


The motion I have to move, Sir, is: "That Dáil Eireann affirms that Ireland is a Sovereign Nation, deriving its sovereignty in all respects from the will of the people of Ireland; that all the international relations of Ireland are governed on the part of Ireland by this sovereign status; and that all facilities and accommodations accorded by Ireland to another state or country are subject to the right of the Irish Government to take care that the liberty and well-being of the people of Ireland are not endangered." Now, one Deputy asked me when this notice appeared first, what was the meaning of it. I gathered from the question, or perhaps, from the conversation which followed it, that what was intended in asking me that question was: what tactical purpose I had in bringing it forward. Now, I have no tactical purpose in bringing it forward; that is to say, no tactical purpose as between any number of members of this Dáil and any other number of members of this Dáil—no tactical purpose whatsoever. There is not a single member of this assembly who can say that any single thing that I have done since I became a member of it partook of the nature of tactics, in order to gain an advantage over any number of persons in the Dáil, or for any object pursued by any number of persons in this Dáil over the other number. There are old friends of mine associated with me in public movements for years back, and not one of them can point to an occasion upon which I ever endeavoured to gain a tactical advantage over any other person with whom I was engaged in Irish public work. Therefore, I put this motion in the hope that it will express the unanimous view of the members of this assembly. I do not put it from any controversial point of view, and if I understood that it were to be made the basis of a controversy here now, I should rather never have brought it forward, and I would ask that, sooner than that a controversy should arise upon it, I shall be asked to withdraw it. The terms in which it is stated, are stated with all the clarity that it was possible for me to put into it. There is no reserve; there is nothing concealed in any term; I wish them to be as plain as I could make them in the English language. And the reason for that, I think, is obvious. Now, it is evident that a great deal of confusion of thought —not so much confusion of thought as the confusion of the habitual way of expressing thoughts—about these things, exists. It is natural enough. The political traditions of the past have to account for it. I say the same as Mr. de Valera said to you a few days ago. What I think about these things—I know perfectly well; I have no doubt about it—it is what the people of Ireland think in their hearts about it. They may be confused with regard to how to express their thoughts, they may be confused in the face of this or that political proposal or political formula, but what they think is the same, fundamentally the same. They think what I say here; that there is no rightful sovereignty, and can be no rightful sovereignty, except the sovereignty derived from the will of the Irish people (hear, hear). That is what I ask the Dáil to re-affirm now as a basic principle, and the object of doing that—one object of doing it— is clear enough. There is a danger in making agreements, especially in making agreements with a government like the English Government. There is a saying attributed to General Smuts "that the statesmen of England cannot think of Ireland; when they think of Ireland their minds relapse into the seventeenth century." Well, consequently, there is a danger that people in Ireland, and people in England, may interpret this or that in the terms of the seventeenth century. I wish it to be made clear that it is in the terms of the present century that these things ought to be interpreted. The second thing I state in this is: that the international relations of Ireland are governed on the part of Ireland by this sovereign status. Now, these international relations—the international relations involved in the Treaty—concern, as well as Ireland, Great Britain, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand—every single one of these countries. Those in them who represent them as political thinkers hold precisely the same doctrines as are stated here; that is to say that each of these countries is sovereign in its own domain, and derives its sovereignty from the will of its people. In the second place, each one of them in its relation with the other, exercises that sovereign status, so that the relations to each other is one of equality. In a recent communication reported in the Press, written by Mr. Lloyd George from the South of France, he is reported as having stated that this equality of status was what is now recognised on his part. At all events, I wish it to be put beyond all doubt that it is what is now recognised on our part—that we recognise no inequality of status——

That we recognise no subordinate status, and that we recognise no suzeranity or claim to suzeranity in any shape or form (hear, hear). People will say, perhaps —well no, take the "perhaps" out of it (laughter)—that in the actual terms of the Treaty there are words and phrases that cannot clearly be reconciled with those principles. I do not deny it. There are words and phrases which cannot clearly be reconciled with those principles. I do not read much of these discussions, but I happened to hit on one item in a discussion that took place in the British Parliament on this Treaty. It was Lord Birkenhead who was speaking, and he was speaking about his friend, Lord Carson, and he said Lord Carson's ideas on the subject were mediaeval. I wish Lord Birkenhead's own ideas were less mediaeval when he was engaged in his share of drafting that Treaty, because there is a great deal of pure mediaevalism in the phrasing of it. My object is plain. It is to get away from the mediaevalism and interpret all these things in the light of the twentieth century—to interpret status in the light in which South Africa, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand interpret it; that is to say, sovereignty for each of those in their own domain, and equality in their relations with each other. Not, indeed, that their form of interpretation of it need concern us; for if they had never placed any interpretation on it, it would be our right and duty and business to declare the fact that Ireland is a sovereign nation, deriving its sovereignty in all respects from the will of the people of Ireland, and that all the international relations of Ireland are governed on the part of Ireland by this sovereign status. That means complete equality in these relations. Now, we come to the third part which deals with facilities and accommodations accorded by Ireland to another state or country. We know the claim that has been put forward, and that is that certain things are necessary to the security of Great Britain on account of its peculiar position. It is not necessary at all to deal with that part of my resolution in any controversial form, because I think it is recognised on all hands—not that we take the view Great Britain takes with regard to these things—but that, for one reason or another, we cannot escape from making certain concessions in those respects. Well, having made those concessions, we are entitled to insist that those concessions shall only be used for the purposes for which they are claimed. It is quite possible they might be used for another purpose. It has arisen at many points during our long discussions here that we cannot invest ourselves with security here against the naval power of Britain, if Britain is hostile to us; and, in fact, the statement has been made that the only safeguard we have against the naval aggression of Great Britain is international morality. I, personally, think international morality has a very long way to go yet before it becomes worthy of the term morality at all. But if these concessions are made, or exist, it is the right of the Irish Government to take care that they are used for no other purpose than the purpose for which they are claimed. Now, those are the reasons for which I have brought forward those resolutions. It is in order that things which some people say exist by implication, and other people deny, but— whether they exist by implication or do not exist by implication—ought to exist, and about which we are all unanimous that they ought to exist—it is in order that these things may be clearly stated, so that it will not be possible for any person in future to say, if we insist on these fundamental rights of the Irish people, we are breaking faith with anybody. These are fundamental rights; they existed before the Treaty, they existed during the Treaty, they existed after the Treaty. We claim these rights, at all events, and I believe the Irish people, so far as they can think these things out, are unanimous in claiming them. I would not even exclude the Unionists. There is no political right but the right based on the will of the Irish people. Consequently I put these proposals forward. I hope I have said nothing controversial as between different sections here. If I have, it has been unintentional. I put these forward for your consideration. These are things that have all been agreed to publicly in many statements made on behalf of Great Britain, and on behalf of the communities mentioned as in the British Commonwealth. They are undenied, and put forward without being challenged. I ask you to put them forward. I have avoided, so far as I consciously could, putting up any controversial aspect on the resolution itself, and in my attempt to explain it, and I would ask my fellow-members here to adopt unanimously those resolutions in order to show that, on certain fundamental things, we, as representing the people of Ireland, are unanimous (applause).


Is there any seconder for Deputy MacNeill's resolution?

I desire to second that resolution.

I regret this resolution has been brought forward. As Deputy MacNeill said he would withdraw it if it was controversial, I think, from one point of view, it should be withdrawn. But the main idea can be served, perhaps, very much better by an amendment. Our attitude is this: this resolution of the approval of the Treaty was simply a license to the Executive—the new Executive—that they might promote the setting up of a Provisional Government in accordance with the terms; in other words, that we would not be actively hostile to the setting up of the Government, though we do not, and cannot, admit its right as the Government of this country until the Irish people have spoken. Anything that would seem to make it appear that that Treaty was completed by the resolution of approval here, we are against; and this mere declaration is, to our minds, of very little value when it is not in accordance, as far as we can see, with the text of the actual Treaty. I will propose an amendment to this—and I think we can be unanimous about this, because any action we have taken here, we have taken it as the Parliament of the Republic of Ireland—and the amendment that would cover the object for which Deputy MacNeill's motion was put before you, being the assertion of the independence of Ireland, can be put this way. Leave out all the words after Dáil Eireann and insert: "The Government of Dáil Eireann re-affirms in the name of the Irish people the Declaration of Independence made on January 21st, 1919." I propose that we here now solemnly re-affirm that Declaration of Independence. It is, as you know, as follows:

"Whereas the Irish people is by right a free people: and whereas for seven hundred years the Irish people has never ceased to repudiate, and has repeatedly protested in arms against foreign usurpation; and whereas English Rule in this country is, and always has been, based upon force and fraud and maintained by military occupation against the declared will of the people; and whereas the Irish Republic was proclaimed in Dublin on Easter Monday, 1916, by the Irish Republican Army acting on behalf of the Irish people; and whereas the Irish people is resolved to secure and maintain its complete independence in order to promote the common weal, to re-establish justice, to provide for future defence, to insure peace at home and good will with all nations, and to constitute a national polity based upon the people's will, with equal right and equal opportunity for every citizen; and whereas, at the threshold of a new era in history, the Irish electorate has, in the General Election of December, 1918, seized the first occasion to declare by an overwhelming majority its firm allegiance to the Irish Republic: now, therefore, we, the elected representatives of the ancient Irish people in national Parliament assembled, do, in the name of the Irish nation ratify the establishment of the Irish Republic, and pledge ourselves and our people to make this declaration effective by every means at our command: we ordain that the elected representatives of the Irish people alone have power to make laws binding on the people of Ireland, and that the Irish Parliament is the only Parliament to which that people will give its allegiance: we solemnly declare foreign Government in Ireland to be an invasion of our national right which we will never tolerate, and we demand the evacuation of our country by the English Garrison: we claim for our national independence the recognition and support of every free nation in the world, and we proclaim that independence to be a condition precedent to international peace hereafter: in the name of the Irish people we humbly commit our destiny to Almighty God who gave our fathers the courage and determination to persevere through long centuries of a ruthless tyranny, and strong in the justice of the cause which they have handed down to us, we ask His Divine Blessing on this, the last stage of the struggle we have pledged ourselves to carry through to freedom" (applause).

That is not an amendment in accordance with the rules of debate.


I am careful about that matter of omitting, adding, or substituting words. This is to omit words?

To omit and substitute words.

Did I not understand the proposer of the motion to say very definitely and clearly that he was putting it forward on the express understanding there was to be no official opposition, and if there was, it would be withdrawn?

Is mian liom aontú leis an bhfó-rún.

I am sorry it was not indicated to me that it was intended to put an amendment to my resolution. If I had known anything about that, I would not have, at this stage of the proceedings, supplied material for a fresh controversy. I ask the permission of the Dáil to withdraw my resolution (hear, hear).

There is no necessity to ask permission.


I must therefore declare, as the proposer of the motion has withdrawn it, that now there is neither a motion nor an amendment before the House (applause). I will ask the Speaker to take the Chair again (laughter).

vacated the Chair which was then taken by THE SPEAKER.

A Chinn Chomhairle, I rise to make a motion for the adjournment. But before I do so I may mention that into my hands have been put, within the last few minutes, questions addressed by Madame Markievicz. It was the first time I saw them, and there might be an insinuation that I avoided them. The first question is: "What is the scheme that Mr. Griffith refers to when he says, alluding to the Southern Unionists, ‘I agreed that a scheme should be devised to give them their full share of representation in the first Chamber of the Irish Parliament.' Is it a scheme for party legislation, class legislation, or what?" The second question is: "On what basis is this Upper House that he mentions further on in the letter to be constituted?" My answer to that is this: I met some of the Southern Unionists in London. I refused to meet them at a Conference. I said they had no locus standi at a Conference; but I would meet them as an Irishman might meet Irishmen. I discussed matters with them, and I said: “We want you all in Ireland.” They asked about representation, and I said: “I will agree a scheme shall be devised to give you full representation.” Madame Markievicz asks me what that scheme is. I do not know.