I think it is not at all unsatisfactory from the point of view of members sitting on those Benches that a question of this kind should arise so early in the history of the Dáil, and in the history, as I say, of a Government which was appointed but yesterday. It is much more satisfactory to this particular group of the Dáil to deal with such a matter than with matters which are more germane perhaps to the interests of other parties in the Dáil than this. A statement appeared in this morning's paper, issued as it is said by the Home Affairs Department. It reads as follows: "The Government does not recognise the right of Civil Servants to strike. In the event of a cessation of work by any section of the Postal Service picketing such as is permitted in connection with industrial strikes will not be allowed. The Government has determined to offer the fullest protection to those Officers who, remaining loyal to the Government, continue to carry out their duties. The Post Office Service is a vital State service. The Government is prepared to use, if necessary, all the forces at its disposal to ensure that no official who continues his service to the State is subjected to interference or intimidation."
The motion that I propose to move is:—"That this Dáil repudiates the statement issued by the Minister for Home Affairs beginning with the words ‘that the Government does not recognise the right of Civil Servants to strike.'" Those are the words which I desire particularly to lay emphasis upon. We had earlier in the day a statement by the Minister for Home Affairs that he was a good democrat, and all his professions were in favour of what he considered to be Democracy. Now here we have a test. Here we have a test, a test not only of the Minister's democracy, but a test of the genuineness of the professions of human liberty which the Members of this Dáil have been protesting the last— how many years I do not know. We are going to test to-night whether the demand for National liberty was impelled by mere hatred, distrust, dislike, envy of England, or whether it really had its roots in the desire for emancipation of the Nation or of the people, or of an individual from tyranny.
We are up against the question of the rights of men to combine, the rights of men to refuse to work for an employer under conditions fixed by that employer; we are up against the question whether a man or a woman entering the service of any employer, be that employer a private person or a Government, thereby sells his soul as well as his body to that employer. We are faced with the question of the status of the human being in his social relations. The Ministry for whom the Minister for Home Affairs speaks in this matter evidently conceives that once a person enters the employment of a Government he is not only selling his bodily powers, and mental powers, but he is selling his liberty, selling his soul. I can understand men who have been protesting against the intervention of State in commerce and in industry trying to make it an object lesson. We have been told in evidence before the Railway Commission and in the public Press times without number, practically that the State is the very devil, and I take it that the Ministry wants to prove that the man or the woman who enters the services of the State is damnified hereafter, having sold his soul to that devil! I wonder whether the Democrats have considered how the working classes of these and other countries have arrived at the present stage of comparative freedom? Do they know anything about the development of the Industrial movement, the struggle against the combination laws, the struggle for the right to bargain collectively; the struggle for the right to strike: do they think that the workers of this country are going to accept the position which places one section of the workers obviously and clearly in the category of slaves? The Government does not recognise the right of certain Civil Servants to strike; it does not recognise the right of certain men to refuse to work and to take the consequences. If it is a crime, prosecute them. If it is an offence take it to the Courts; but to utter as a Ministerial statement that the Government does not recognise the right of Civil Servants to strike practically tells the Civil Servants that they have bound themselves body and soul to the State. We are classed as amongst those who would ask the Government to take possession of the bodies and souls of the workers when entering into Government service when we talk of nationalisation. Here you have the Ministry definitely laying down that those who have entered their service have given up their liberties. We repudiate that, and we say if you intend to pursue that policy we are going to get up against you every organised worker in Ireland. This is directed particularly against Postal Servants who have decided to withdraw their labour, because of an alteration by the employers in the conditions of their service. English law at any rate recognised the right of any body of workmen to withdraw their labour. It is not an offence. If it is an offence, prosecute. But the Irish Government's first act is to utter a statement to the effect that the man who has entered the State service has no longer the freedom to withdraw his labour. But what is the occasion for this statement? It is argued, it was argued officially on Saturday that the price of the labour these men have sold, or the price of similar labour in England, has gone down, that the price of similar labour in the North of Ireland has cheapened, and, therefore, it is said, "You postal men must reduce the price of your labour"; and when they decline to do that at the instigation, at the command of the Post Office Authorities and the Government, then they are told that they have no right to withdraw their labour, that the Government does not recognise the right to strike, and they are going to use all the force at their command to prevent them from exercising what has been allowed and is allowed in every organisation in these countries. We want to put it to the Minister and put it to the Dáil: is the future going to be whatever appertains in England with regard to wages, with regard to the conditions of labour, whatever appertains in the North of Ireland with regard to the wages and the conditions of labour must also appertain to this part of Ireland? Shall we go a little further and say if the price of labour is reduced in Germany, in Austria or China that the price of labour in Ireland must go down equally. We want to know definitely whether it is your intention to treat the Irishmen in public service on the basis of conditions in Ireland, and whether you are going to deprive the men and women organised in any combination to exercise the rights which they have won and their fathers before them have won, to secure improvements and to resist— and this is more important—declinations in their conditions of life. We heard a remark passed by one of the Ministers— the Minister for Agriculture—on Saturday about the slave mind. I tell him and I tell the Minister for Home Affairs that a much more undesirable state of mind is that of the slave-owner, and it is the slave-owner's mind that issues a statement of that kind as it was the slave-owner's mind that sent a telegram to the P.M.G. of England asking for black-legs last March.