nominated as Minister for Defence, General Mulcahy.
MINISTER FOR DEFENCE.
I do not want to take up the attitude of the bull in the china shop, but I must say I do believe in taking up a position of independent criticism in regard to these things. I think this is one of the most important appointments at the present time, for this reason, we are fighting a War in Ireland which is caused by the defiance by a Military minority of the Civil Majority of the Nation. The one principle that we are forced at the moment to give attention in Ireland to, is the great principle that the civil authority must be superior to military forces of any kind, whether military forces on our own side that we have to use through our Army, or any movement, revolution, or social disturbance, attempted by military forces within the Nation. Here we have a proposal to have the one man in control of both the Army and of the civil measures that have to be taken. The administration of the Army involves an enormous amount of routine work that results from the present state of things in the country. I do not believe any man at the present time can do all these things as efficiently by holding two or more positions as if he only held one. I believe, first of all, that the Minister for Defence should be a civilian, in this sense at least, that he should not hold at the same time an Army appointment. I think that each of the positions held by Mr. Mulcahy should be held by different men. I think in that way we would certainly get best results for the country, both on the military and administrative side. It must-be evident to the Dáil that an enormous amount of work at the present time and for months to come, in connection with administration alone, having regard to the changes from day to day and the unforeseen changes that have to be made, in the routine work of an ordinary department and especially in this department at the present time calls on the time and energy of the man conducting and responsible for the department, making it absolutely impossible for him to devote his whole time to the administration of that department. The same thing applies to the military side. Surely it Is necessary for the Commander-in-Chief to devote his whole time to the military side so that the operations may conclude as soon as possible by the military side being successfully earned on with tremendous energy and concentration. From this point of view it seems to me desirable that the appointment as suggested should be reconsidered, and I hope it will be reconsidered. There has been a considerable amount of change enforced, of course, within the past few months. I can hardly think of a post that has not been occupied by one or other Member of the Government, both civil and military. I only want to say, although these appointments may stand, and receive the approval of the Dáil, I certainly reserve the right of independent criticism for everything done in that way, and should not certainly consider I was justified in acting in any other way on behalf of the people I have the honour to represent. Apart from that, no matter how important these Ministries may be or the issues arising in connection with them, I hope that the main business before the Dáil, i.e., to wind up in a satisfactory manner the relations between Ireland and England, to carry the stages of the Treaty through and get the Constitution going, so that we can after that devote our whole attention to the working of the country—will be attended to. Until that time comes I shall certainly give every possible, support in every way to sustain the Government in its decision to complete that work, meanwhile criticising as may seem best.
I have every confidence in the capacity of Mr. Mulcahy. I believe he could fill the two positions with credit to himself and the country, but I object to any man being Minister for Defence and Commander of the Army at the same time. The Commander of the Army if he is to command must be a dictator in a certain sense, for that reason I object to the Minister for Defence and the Commander-in-Chief being the same person.
I think that indicates the position we occupy in this matter. That the Commander-in-Chief should also be Minister for Defence reminds one too much of General Kitchener and of certain other commanders of armies in other countries, which leads, possibly not in all circumstances, to a dictatorship. I think there is not much reason to think that, in the present circumstances and the present personnel, but it is not a good principle to adopt at the beginning. The Minister for Defence should be Minister for Defence. The policy to which I object is one that we should not begin now. But there is another aspect of this appointment that I think we should have some information upon. And that is, what force is responsible for the keeping of order, and to whom they are responsible. We are quite in the dark, I think, as to the relations of such police as there are in the country and the Minister for Defence. Is it contemplated that the Civic Guard which is in course of formation— perhaps in some small degree in active operation—is that body responsible to the Ministry of Home Affairs or the Minister for Defence? And is the Minister for Defence or the Minister for Home Affairs the power to order them? Is it a civilian force or is it a military force? These are questions that ought to be answered, and it is one added reason why, in our view, the Minister for Defence ought to be a civilian and not a military man. Or, if we claim that a military man in this case is a civilian his duties should not be Commander-in-Chief while he is Minister for Defence. It would facilitate matters and save discussion at another time if we had an explanation as to the relation between the Civil Police and the Military forces, and whether they are responsible to the Minister for Home Affairs or to the Minister for Defence.
Another important matter which I should wish to draw attention to, is this—As I came into this building, a friend of mine stepped out into the road and handed me an important sheet of paper. It was propaganda conducted by the Irregular forces, who are producing disorder in the country. I read this document, and found a paragraph in it which referred to a body "calling itself the Provisional Government," and then it adds in a bracket "really a Military Junta." Now, I am convinced that the Executive which this legislative sets up is not a military junta, and that it will not assume any of the powers of a "military junta." And I hope I am equally confident in saying that it will not want to do so. But it is important that the criticism of this kind made by those who are acting criminally in the country should not be supported by action taken here or taken or permitted to be taken by this Government. And if you have a Ministry so formed that the Minister for Defence is at one and the same time Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in the Field, I certainly believe that you are presenting people who at the present moment are acting illegally with an argument which they should not be presented with. The principle should not be permitted in any country in the world where the Commander-in-Chief in the Field should speak in the Legislature, and thereupon become head of a civil department. If he is asked a question here, in which capacity will he reply? He will reply, of course, as Minister for Defence, but it will never be forgotten that at that moment he is Commander-in-Chief as well. So long as the state of the country continues this question will have to be met frequently during the next three or four weeks, and these questions will arise whenever this Dáil meets, and I am perfectly sure that he will be too fully detained with his work as Commander-in-Chief to give this Dáil the time to answer for his work in the field to the Civil Legislature. Therefore, I urge the President to see that whoever is Commander-in-Chief should not be also Minister for Defence, and whoever is Minister for Defence should not be Commander-in-Chief—that these two should be kept separate.
The Civic Guard is under Home Affairs. The Minister for Defence has no control over them nor has the Commander-in-Chief either. I would like to say that under ordinary circumstances there might be some reason——
Does that include the C.I.D.?
Yes. Under ordinary circumstances there might be some ground for criticism of one person holding these two appointments. But at the present time, and under the present circumstances, it is obvious that the gentleman put forward is the person for both appointments. He has been identified with the Army for many years, and his long and successful Army record has not deprived him of being able to give the Government very valuable assistance in Council. The mere fact of his duties occupying his time to such an extent as to exclude him from perhaps being present in the Dáil during the time it would be sitting, to answer questions in connection with the War, would not, in my opinion, be sufficient justification for nominating to this Chamber another person. Those of us who have been in the Civil Government only and have no connection with the Army know and appreciate fully the value of the counsel and usefulness of the attendance of the Minister for Defence at our meetings. Those in the Army also appreciate his value, and the public outside appreciate his value both as Minister for Defence and Commander-in-Chief, and as I have already said, the two positions, although under other circumstances they might possibly be held by different persons, I think it is rather a matter for satisfaction that this Chamber has in the person of General Mulcahy a person able and competent to fill both positions.
The nomination of General Mulcahy was approved by the Dáil.