DISTRICT JUSTICES (TEMPORARY PROVISIONS) BILL. - SECOND READING.

The Bill which is now before the Dáil for consideration must be regarded as a temporary measure in this sense: that the Judiciary Committee, which held its first meeting to-day, is being asked to pass in review the entire legal system of the country with a view to such reform, and reconstruction, as they may think fit to suggest to the Executive Council. Legislation will be necessary upon the report of that Committee, and members of the Dáil will have abundant opportunity for expressing their views thereon. This Bill, then, is a temporary provision, carrying on in the interval between the present and the time when there will be legislation following upon the report of the Judiciary Committee. It provides for the appointment of District Justices, and it proceeds to define their duties. It gives to the Home Affairs Department power to make the necessary adjustments and re-arrangements of the Petty Sessions Districts.

Section 4 is an important section. It provides for the appointment of people to honorary positions called Parish Commissioners. It is a provision for the convenience of the public and for the convenience of the police force. The powers and limitations of these functionaries are set out in the Section. It provides that the Civic Guard shall act in relation to these District Courts as the late police force acted to the Petty Sessions Courts in the past.

Section 7 increases—doubles in fact— the existing fees, which were fixed 60 years ago, and which have not been since revised.

Section 8 confirms the power of those who have been for some time acting in the capacity of District Justices, and validates all their actions.

I do not know what view Deputies may have formed about the honorary magistracy as it existed in this country before the Truce, and before the events which led to the Truce and rendered the Truce necessary. I do not know whether they think it was a very admirable system, a very democratic system, a system ensuring clean, impartial, and impersonal administration of the law. A good deal would depend upon what view they have formed of that system when they come to consider the Bill that is now before them. This Bill provides for a District Justice functioning over, roughly a county area. Responsible, in the sense that he may be removed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Executive Council, he stands alone without roots in the area, and very independent of all sections and of all classes within that area, and, from the nature of his position, very independent of local prejudice. Responsible to the Executive Council, which is responsible to the Dáil, and which in turn is responsible to the people, he will feel that responsibility; he will feel that he is out amongst the people to administer impartial and impersonal justice. Whether the average J.P. of the past felt that or not may be questioned. I am making no general indictment of that body of men. But they were laymen, local men, many of them dependent on the people for their means of livelihood, either having shops or having professions amongst the people, and I do not know that that is just the best position to place a man in who has the duty of administering the law.

This is a temporary provision. I do not want to prejudice or forecast the report of the Judiciary Committee, but one comes into contact with the very definite opinion that the people require cheaper and quicker law, and that the tendency must be towards increased jurisdiction for the courts which are more readily accessible to the people. If such increased jurisdiction were to be extended to Courts of Summary Jurisdiction, obviously the need for professional men, rather than laymen, administering such increased jurisdiction, would exist. I propose to go in some detail into the powers and limitations of the proposed new honorary functionaries to be known as Parish Commissioners.

"A Parish Commissioner shall have all the powers and authorities which immediately before the passing of this Act were vested in a Justice of the Peace in respect of the several matters following, that is to say:—

(a) signing Petty Sessions summonses;

(b) signing Warrants;

(c) administering oaths and taking declarations and affirmations;

(d) committing dangerous lunatics and idiots to Lunatic Asylums under Section 10 of the Lunacy (Ireland) Act, 1867 (30 & 31 Vict., ch. 118);

(e) signing certificates for the admission of pauper lunatics and idiots to Lunatic Asylums;

Provided always that any summons against any member of the Civic Guard shall be signed by a District Justice.

Whenever any person charged with having committed an indictable offence shall be arrested by a member of the Civic Guard such person shall forthwith be brought before a Parish Commissioner, who after hearing such evidence as may be offered, shall remand such person either in custody or in such bail as the Parish Commissioner shall think fit until the next District Court to be held in the Court District where such person was arrested."

It will be noted there that the discretion of the Parish Commissioner is limited. He must remand, and he must remand on bail or in custody. He has not the power of refusing information; he has not the power of discharge over the head or behind the back, so to speak, of the District Justice, but he can remand the person brought before him on sufficient bail or custody. It will be understood that the District Justices administer a rather large area—it might be held at the moment that the area is rather too large, and steps will be taken to meet that point of view. The person may be arrested in a particular town by the Civic Guard, and arrested on an indictable charge, and the District Justice might have held his Court in that town on the day before, and might not be due back for a fortnight. It is evident there must be provision made to meet a situation of that kind, and to enable the person arrested on an ordinary comparatively trivial charge to be remanded on bail. Section 5 deals with the appointment of Clerks—a very burning question. Generally, I am not conscious that the Bill needs any particular advocacy, and I await the criticism which may be levelled at it, but I feel that it is a simple provision to meet the existing situation pending the time when selected experts will have made their report on the entire legal system of the country. I do not think that there ought to be much criticism on the lines that we have not reverted to the honorary magistracy. It is not a time when it is a reasonable thing, or a fair thing, to expect that men living amongst the people, dependent on the people, should undertake that particular duty. That has not been deemed advisable. I formally move the Second Reading.

I confess that I have not given very close attention to the principles of this Bill since it was distributed, but so far as I have gone through it, and so far as I understand it, there is not a great deal that one could find fault with, even if we desired to do so. A few questions do arise that would, perhaps, be worthy of some answer. I just raise a question, bearing in mind what the Minister has said regarding the temporary nature of the Bill, and that is the question of the wisdom of allowing District Justices to be removable and dismissable by political heads—whether they ought not come within the category of those officers who are not removable by political authority. I believe that it is desirable that the judiciary should be kept apart from the political influences of the time, and that, at least, the higher Judges, the Judges you might say who are solely and wholly Judges, ought not be subject to the chances of political controversy. I just raise that question to invite the views of the Minister on the general features of the principle, and to learn from him what will guide the Minister in regard to these appointments; as to whether it is to be thought of as a permanent condition—if the appointments of District Justices as such are to be continued, shall we say, after the report of the Commission is brought forward— whether it is the mind of the present Minister that such Judges should be removable at the will of the existing Executive. In regard to Parish Commissioners, I am inclined to think that this is a desirable innovation, and that the limited authority these Commissioners will have will make it easy for certain processes of law to be carried through, while associating the people generally with the notion that they are part of this business of law-making and law enforcement. The question does arise as to the fitness and propriety of the persons appointed. Hitherto fitness used to depend too often upon financial condition. Social standing depended too often upon financial condition, unfortunately. Our view is, that that should not be by any means a test of social standing, but the fact remains it is in too many minds, and social standing ought not to be given too much weight in the selection of persons who are fit and proper. I would hope that in such selections all factors should be taken into account, having regard to the amount of confidence the people will have in the selections. The Minister has told us that the appointment of District Clerks, or Petty Session Clerks as they were, has caused a good deal of interest to the country. I find that that is true, and but for a very stringent rule that we have made, and that I believe all our colleagues conform to, we would be inundated to a greater extent than we are with complaints and proposals that such and such a person is very much better fitted for the job than such another person. I may say, and perhaps it is no harm to make a public avowal, that we have made a very stringent rule that no member of this group, at any rate, shall use his influence to secure the appointment of any person under Government patronage, so that we can deal with this matter somewhat impersonally. The complants we get are, that the people who are being selected have already got too much to do, or ought to be doing sufficient on their own farms, for instance, to keep them fully occupied without taking jobs as Petty Sessions or District Court Clerks; that men who have business establishments of one kind or another are being selected over the heads of other people who are fit and proper, and who need occupation. Now, I am not going to enlarge on this, because I have no notion whether the complainant is a more proper person, a more fitted person, than the men who have been selected or temporarily appointed; but there is, I think, some justification for complaint. If such complaints are well established—that men who have businesses, men who have large farms and local influence are put in for these appointments—it is not satisfactory, and it is not going to give any confidence. I mention that as an indication of the kind of complaint that is coming to my hands, and also the plea, better and more worthy, probably, I think, of consideration by the Minister, and that is that these men——

Will the Deputy say if these complaints are coming from Irregulars?

That is not a point of order.

The complaint that is more worthy of attention by the Minister, perhaps, is that men who did, under great stress, do the work of Court Clerks, where they have proved themselves fit, ought to get a preference for these appointments. I think that is a principle that ought to be generally acceptable, and I just throw out the suggestion as one that would be generally agreed on, certainly from these benches. The fact that this is a temporary Bill, and will inevitably be affected by the report, which will come at a later stage, of the Judiciary Committee, makes it unnecessary, perhaps, to go too closely into details at the present time.

The Bill may be described as "The Summary Jurisdiction Alterations Act." It seems that there will be universal approval for the proposition to remove permanently what used to be called the J.P. from the operations of our life in Saorstát Eireann. That great jurist, Lord Coke, was under the impression that the institution, Justice of the Peace, was the greatest thing in Christendom. Well, that might be so in antique times, but we who are old enough to remember what the J.P. was like in Ireland would hesitate to associate him with Christendom. The Justices were precisely what the Minister has said— undemocratic, even where they were selected from what ought to be fairly describable as the democracy; but earlier, and for the most part on the model of the system in England, they belonged to the landed gentry, and were more interested in the preservation of game and all that was incidental thereto, than in Justice in the ordinary wider sense, and they were notoriously parochial tyrants. Now, the Minister proposes to preserve whatever was useful in that institution, and to take away the element of evil. In that respect, I think, "The Summary Jurisdiction Alteration Act" is highly commendable. Mr. T.M. Healy on a famous occasion, when Lord Rossmore was deprived of his J.P. -ship as a punishment for some political misdeed, described him as wounded in the tail. Removal of the J.P. -ship from certain village magnates will make for good; but I would draw the Minister's attention to the fact, that, while he removes plumage of the old order, he substitutes a new. We shall find these gentlemen figuring in the newspapers as P.C.'s, and it will be difficult to distinguish between the Parish Commissioner in charge of the parish pump, and the Privy Councillor. It is a very high-sounding title, and I wonder if something less ambitious could not be found for the purpose. Another excellent feature of the Bill is the extension of the jurisdiction of the District Justices. The District Justice will have not merely the powers of a stipendiary magistrate, as these powers were hitherto understood, but he will discharge functions that were assigned to several magistrates sitting together. I find it provided in the Second Schedule that wherever you read "Justice,""Justices,""Magistrate,""Magistrates sitting in Petty Sessions," the equivalent in Saorstát Eireann shall be "District Justice" sitting in and holding the District Court. But when we find the duties, somewhat onerous, sometimes dangerous, that were cast upon several justices sitting together referred now to one individual who is really a Removable Magistrate, it does suggest for serious consideration if the tenure of these District Justices might not be improved in view of the higher character and responsibility of their office. Deputy Johnson raised a question with regard to that. It seemed as if for the moment he had forgotten that when we were enacting the Constitution we made provision for the appointment of judges who should hold office during good behaviour and were dismissable only on the vote of the two Houses of the Oireachtas. And then we also set up agents of the judiciary system whose tenure was to be determined by law, and I fancy that it is under that portion of the Article of the Constitution that we have Clause 2 in the present Bill, setting out the unhappy tenure of the District Justices. The District Justice, you will note, is appointed under precisely the same Act of Parliament, re-enacted, as the old Removable Magistrate, and he really is a Removable Magistrate. I do not think the Minister is old enough to remember what was said—I will not say what was written—of the Removable Magistrates at the time when their character as Removables was a principal feature of Irish life. Men were appointed to carry out drastic measures similar to that enacted yesterday in this Dáil, and to ride rough-shod over the people, and they had to carry out the orders of Dublin Castle, because they held their office at the goodwill of the Castle, and their promotion was dependent upon the retention of it. I do not mean for a moment to suggest that either the present Minister for Home Affairs or any successor of his would recreate the bad tradition of Dublin Castle, but it is not a good thing, and it is not a healthy thing for public administration, and it is certainly not a desirable thing for the mind of the Justice himself to feel, that he is at the mercy—I do not think that is an exaggeration—of a chance vote for the retention of his office. Remember, he must be a man skilled in the law; he has to be a barrister of a certain number of years' standing, or a solicitor. I notice, by the way, that our draftsmen have not yet become accustomed to the terminology of our Constitution. They speak of a solicitor of the Supreme Court when they mean, of course, the High Court. At any rate that is a mere trifle— the point is that these men must give up their profession when they enter upon this office. They have no security of tenure except in so far as there is security of tenure, in the sense of justice and the strength of character of the Minister, and they have no pensions allotted to them. I should certainly say that under this measure the position of a District Justice is the very ideal of insecurity. Let me suppose the District Justice who has a particular aversion for the road-hog and inflicts very severe fines upon motorists whom he convicts of breaking the law. It is quite possible that a group, let us say of independent Deputies, in this Dáil would combine to make an attack upon him and the political conjuncture of the moment might make it useful for the Ministry to have the votes of these men to secure a majority. Then I am not quite so sure that the District Justice is not in peril. One of the District Justices, who is a friend of mine, I notice from the reports in the papers, has frequently punished very grave transgressions of the Licensing Laws by fines of 5/-. Suppose another District Justice took a severer view of such offences and inflicted the maximum penalty it is also conceivable that political pressure could be brought to bear to have such a man reprimanded. I do not plead at all for putting a District Justice on the same level as a Judge of the High Court or of the County Court even, though his jurisdiction approach somewhat to the jurisdiction of the County Court Judge. That his selection and appointment should be vested in the Minister is a thing to which I raise no objection whatever, but that he should be dismissable on the will of the Executive Council is another question. It might be possible to have his case considered by a Judicial Committee. It might be possible that a Committee of the higher judges, presided over by whoever is the equivalent of the Lord Chief Justice, for instance, should investigate his case and that he should be dismissable only if and when he has been convicted of such an abuse of his office as renders it obvious that it would not be in the interests of justice or good order to have him continued. I think that, or some procedure such as that, would relieve the Ministers of the Executive Council of a great deal of trouble. It would give greater confidence also among the people at large in the administration of justice, because they would feel that the tenure of this office was wholly independent of favour in the eyes of whatever happens to be the Ministry of the day. The doubling of the fees does not make for cheapening of law. I have álready advocated the cheapening of law in this Dáil. I regret, I may say in passing, that in the terms of reference for the Judiciary Commission there was no distinct, or at any rate no specific, inclusion of the question of the merging of the two branches of the legal professions. At any rate here is a distinct proposal to make law dearer. The only thing that mollifies my opposition in the matter is that the tax on dogs is not increased. On the whole, however, except for the one item which I think is the outstanding defect—the insecurity of tenure for the District Justices—I fancy that the general verdict will be that the Bill is so good that it is a pity if it should have to be temporary.

I welcome the introduction of this Bill, because I can see through it a foundation-stone, whether it be temporary or whether it eventually becomes permanent, as I hope it will, in the development of the civil administration in this country. I trust that to a certain extent it will be progressive in this way, that it will take out of the hands of the military authorities in this country who have had under a set of circumstances unknown in any other country to perform certain duties that do not belong to the military as such. Under the old regime—the British regime up to 1916, or perhaps up to 1918, the J.P.'s, or Justices, who undertook to perform certain work in the country had one thing, but a very necessary thing, behind their decisions—that was, they had the necessary amount of moral or physical force to see that their decisions or decrees were given effect to. I hope that as time progresses the justices who have been appointed now temporarily, but who may eventually become permanent, will find the people behind them in the same position as they were behind the old Courts in the old days under the British law, and I think that is the least that should be expected from the people, particularly the people who believe in law and civilised conditions, no matter under what form of Government it may be, so long as the Government is in the hands of the people of the country itself. The Courts that were set up as a result of the 1918 Election were more or less for the purpose of destroying the British Courts then in existence, and certainly to a great extent they succeeded, although they had not behind them any organised machinery that under ordinary circumstances would be necessary to execute the decrees of courts in any country. I think it may be said, however, truthfully that some of the decisions given at these Courts, and given by men who had no legal training or knowledge, were very commonsense decisions, and, at any rate, their decisions prove that under extraordinary circumstances they had the moral support of the people, whether they were plaintiffs or defendants, in seeing that their decrees were carried out at the time. The courts certainly did become a farce after the ratification of the Treaty, because certain elements crept into the minds of the people who were the District or Parish Justices which did not allow them to give decisions on the merits of the cases submitted to them, and from that time in my opinion the courts under the auspices of Dáil Eireann were, more or less, a farce. Now, the Minister for Home Affairs has referred at some length to the question of Parish Commissioners. I hope that when he comes to make appointments on that question, honorary appointments as they are, that he will make these appointments irrespective of class, or the old valuation or property basis, on which such appointments were based under the British regime. I think, he will find that there are other classes of the communities who are prepared and willing to subscribe to the administration of the law, and that he will get men of sufficient commonsense and honesty, irrespective of class or valuation basis, to assist him in the establishment of law, or that measure of the law that can be applied from the establishment or formation of such positions. Now, the Minister has said, that the question of the appointment of District Court Clerks is a burning question, and if he were a member of the same Division as I am, and had the same number of complaints as I have had, I can quite agree that he would have that opinion. Deputy Johnson has more or less covered all the points that I intended to deal with. But generally speaking—and I have always held this view, and expressed it to the Minister whenever I had occasion to speak to him on the matter, and I have had occasion to pass him on some documents that were sent to me in connection with this matter—I believe he would be justified in giving these appointments to the men who under most extraordinary conditions carried on the work of such Courts during the Black-and-Tan times. The Chief Whip of the party to which he belongs stated some time ago, and I believe I would not question his authority, or any statement he would make from that side of the Dáil, that it was the intention of the Government to give all these positions to the men who won the war, but who I am sorry to say have failed to make peace. With that statement I am in qualified agreement, and to this extent that if positions are to be given to any such men, I am sure that he will agree with me in this that they ought to be put into the positions for which they are suitable, and that it should not be a case of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. There would be no use in making a bricklayer a Land Commissioner. So in giving effect to the statement of the kind that was made by Deputy Dan McCarthy I hope that consideration would be given to the qualifications of the men who are going to be put into certain positions. Now so far as this is concerned, Section 5, Sub-Section 1 says "From and after the passing of this Act, the existing office of Clerk of Petty Sessions shall cease to exist and every existing clerk of Petty Sessions shall cease to hold his office." I have been told that that has not been applied in practice.

It might save time if I would ask the Deputy to refer to the definition of the word "existing" which he will find at the end of that section. He will find it under Sub-Section 7 of Section 5.

I have been told and I know that in one particular case at any rate that a man who held the Petty Sessions Clerkship previous to the introduction of this Bill, and who was an ex-head Constable in the R.I.C., still holds and was recommended and appointed to the position under the District Court, so that in practice what is to be inferred by this statement is not correct, and that to a certain extent makes it a case for complaint from other people who held other positions under the same circumstances I think that the people who held positions under the old regime are very lucky indeed, and the ratepayers are very unfortunate in having them defined under Clause 10 of the Treaty, as "Civil Servants," because I always understood that a Civil Servant was a full-time official of the Civil Service. I refer to this because such a decision means that to provide pensions for the people who held those positions a considerable sum of money will have to be paid by the taxpayers under the application of Clause 10 to the individuals. I understand, and I am only speaking now for my own area, that appointments were made in some cases which, although I did not wish to interfere in this business at all, have been regarded in the area as unfortunate and unpopular. In one section of the area which I represent I believe an appointment has been cancelled, and must have been cancelled for very good reasons. In another part of the area, and this refers to my own native place, I have been reliably informed— and if I am wrong I want the Minister to contradict me—that it is the intention of the Home Office to appoint a publican who has a farm of fifty or sixty acres of land as well. Now, I can visualise the position of a publican, or perhaps some other of his publican friends, selling poteen all over the country, or keeping their houses open all hours of the night as well as all hours of the day, and of that publican being called upon, as District Court Clerk, to sign a summons against himself. I put it to the Minister for Home Affairs that it would be a most unfortunate state of affairs, that men in such positions, with such a large amount of property, should be appointed to one of these positions. We all admit that publicans have a lot of property. Sir James Craig could prove that, I suppose, if proof were necessary. I put it to the Minister for Home Affairs that it is not in the interest of the administration of justice in the area that such person should be appointed to such a position, no matter who he may be. When speaking the other day, the Minister said, "I could not possibly weigh personally the rival claims and qualifications of the very numerous candidates, but I can say in a general way that such claims and such qualifications receive very real and earnest attention in my Department, and to that extent I take political responsibility for these appointments. I could not undertake in the future—I do not say that I have done it in the past—to give close personal attention to matters of that kind, which, after all, viewed in perspective, are trifling and unworthy of the personal attention of a Minister with so much work on his hands." I can quite realise that in the case of the Minister. But in this case, seeing that the area is his own area, I think he would be in touch with everything that is going on in every part of that area. I make the admission quite freely that the Minister for Home Affairs in the present conditions has a position which very few of those people in this country who criticise him would like to undertake and say that they could do better. As to the position of the District Justices who have been appointed, although they are temporary it is possible that good conduct and efficient administration on their part may make the Government feel at a later stage that the positions should be made permanent. I hope that the question of the permanency of their positions, if ever it does arise, will depend upon the manner in which they discharged their duties during the temporary period. I personally wish them luck, and I hope that the people of the country who believe in civil administration, in law and ordered government, and in doing away with poteen-making, and selling in publichouses after hours, will be behind the District Justices in whatever measures they may be called upon to take to put an end to such scandalous conditions as undoubtedly obtain in the country at the present time.

I would like to emphasise the points made by Deputies Johnson and Davin, regarding the appointment of Clerks to the District Courts. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction throughout the country owing to persons being appointed to these offices who have been not only unsympathetic to the struggle for national rights, but have done all in their power to help the British to keep their stranglehold on this country. The men who have done so much to make the administration of the English law in this country impossible must not be forgotten, and the Minister should carefully consider the record of each individual applicant before appointment in order to allay the intense dissatisfaction that prevails in this country. There is no use in giving lip service to the men who have done something in the past. Let us not drift back to old conditions, and continue in office the old officials, who we all know would cut a man's throat if he said he was in favour of Irish national freedom. All these men who have had anything to do with these Courts in the past should have their records carefully examined, and, if necessary, they should be dismissed. We should keep them out and form a new administration of justice in this country.

There is one Section in this Bill that I would like to dwell on for a moment. Personally I welcome the Bill itself, because I know we must have law and order in the country, especially when that law and order is administered by our own fellow Irishmen. There is, however, one point that I wish to raise and which I think is of national importance, and that is with regard to these Parish Commissioners dealt with in Section 4. I think that the Parish Commissioners have not been given sufficient power. When I explain why that is my idea probably the Minister and also the other Deputies will agree with me. We will take for example the little town in which I reside. There is a Court held there once a fortnight. After that Court has been held, if it so happens that one of the knights of the road comes along and commits an offence, either through getting intoxicated or being disorderly on the street, he is arrested by the Civic Guards and the next morning is sent on here to Dublin. The sending of that man to Dublin means the payment of £1 5s. for his return fare, and also £1 5s. for each of the Guards. The ratepayers of the County will have to meet that. Then when the Court is coming on two of the Civic Guards must come up again to Dublin to bring him back to be tried, and he will probably be fined 1/- and costs, although he will have cost the ratepayers of the county £6. I also find a certain amount of money allotted in the estimates of the rates of the county for which I am a County Councillor—and I presume the same thing occurs in other counties—for the removal of prisoners. I am of opinion that if you give these Parish Commissioners power to impose a small penalty—I do not want to give them powers to deal with a rather serious case of robbery or anything that it is necessary to punish a defendant for—they would be able to save the ratepayers of that county in which they reside much of this unnecessary expenditure. If it costs £6, as I have said, to get 1/- or seven days' imprisonment in default of payment, my suggestion would put £6 in the ratepayers' pocket. In that part of the country that thing is going on presently and will continue while the Parish Commissioners have not this power; they have power to remand a defendant or to allow him out on bail or to send him to prison awaiting trial. They have not power to try that; they have not power to deal with a slight offence, such as a person intoxicated or a person using language which may not be really of interest to the nation or fit for any genuine Irishman to listen to. These are offences that I think should be dealt with by the Parish Commissioner, and I would ask the Minister who is putting forward the Bill to give the Parish Commissioners sufficient power so that they will be able to try such minor offences, and so save the ratepayers a certain amount of money that would otherwise be unnecessarily expended. As regards Section 5, I spoke some time ago with regard to the Clerks. As far as the Clerk who is appointed in my constituency is concerned, I think he is a favourite there. The people of the constituency have never lodged any complaint against the appointment of that Clerk for the District Court. I join with my colleagues, Deputies Johnson, Davin, and Colohan, in sincerely hoping that as regards the old Registrars—the men who kept the ball rolling, and the men who endeavoured to assist us in every way in causing England to evacuate from this country by establishing and having our own Courts—any of them who have the qualifications necessary will not be let down by this Government, and that they will be appointed to the positions wherever they have the qualifications to occupy them. I sincerely hope that will be done; and, above all things, I would impress on the Minister for Home Affairs to give the Parish Commissioners sufficient power to try the minor offences, and so avoid such huge expenditure on the ratepayers in different parts of the country.

The main point that has been raised, and it has been raised by more than one speaker, was the question of the wisdom of providing that District Justices shall be removable on the advice of the Executive. I do not know if that is preferable to having them removable on the advice of a Committee consisting of judges. It at least retains the principle of responsibility to the people for the administration of law by the people through their representatives. At the moment it is not a heavy jurisdiction, and it is a jurisdiction that in the past was exercised by men chosen from amongst the local people themselves. That is gone, but it might be considered a rather sweeping thing, in removing that, to remove also any check by the people on that particular court and that particular jurisdiction. The case arose here the other day where a question was asked about a remark made by a particular District Justice. Such cases might arise in the future. Deputies ought to consider the matter very fully and in all its bearings before committing themselves to the view that these people ought to be made absolutely independent of the representatives of the people, or even to the view that they ought only to be, like judges in higher courts, removable by the majority vote of both Houses. There is such a thing as the necessity for a high personal standard of conduct by men who are sent out to administer the law amongst the people—men who should be themselves in their own lives and in their own bearing exemplars to the people. If a particular Justice were to fail, and fail signally, in that respect, I suggest that is a matter which the Executive might well take cognizance of, and which at the same time ought not properly to be made the subject of a debate in both Houses, and a formal vote in both Houses. There is more in the provision as it stands than a desire on the part of the Executive to retain any grim or tyrannical control over the administration of law in the country. Far more than that. In fact that did not enter into our consideration. But if a Minister here is put a question about the doings and sayings of District Justices, he should not be questioned if he has not a remedy which he can apply if needs be. He must only be questioned where he has responsibility. Therefore, either he must have the responsibility, or he must not be questioned.

Hear, hear.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

In an Act which is really a temporary measure to cover a period between this and the report of the Judiciary Committee, I think it inadvisable to change that particular provision, and I think Deputies ought to examine the thing from all angles and to remember the situation has changed radically, changed more radically even than we ourselves have yet appreciated, from what it was some years ago. There was an example of that here when Deputy Magennis spoke of the intense feeling there was in the country about Removables in the past. The intense feeling about Removables in the past arose from the fact that you had not here responsible Government in the full sense of the word. You had not Government answering to the people through their representatives. It is a farce to say that because they had a certain number of representatives in Westminster, their Government here was a responsible Government. It was not. It was in the fullest sense of the word tyrannical government. I am using the word tyrannical, not in any sense that it was always, and at all times, cruel, oppressive and harsh, but in the real meaning of the word tyrannical, that the people had no control. There was no responsibility to the people. There is now; and all problems and all matters of this kind arising must be regarded in the light of that change. And so, just as there is no analogy between the Removable of the past and the District Justice of to-day, there is no analogy between the Executive of to-day and the Castle of the past. The Irish people could not remove the Castle, and all it stood for, by their votes. If they could, it would have gone long ago. But there will be no one holding power in Ireland henceforth who does not hold it by the expressed will of the people, and no policy will prevail in Ireland that has not the support of the people, and the support of their representatives in this Dáil. Now, are you, in the case of this jurisdiction, so near to the people, touching them so closely in every phase of their existence, going to remove that Court and that jurisdiction out of the purview of their criticism, because that is what it amounts to? I do not advise it. A Parish Commissioner will not be appointed on any basis of snobbery. It is very hard to put in words what the qualifications of the Parish Commissioner ought to be. You can take it that we will look for the best citizen—and I do not care in what strata of society he is found—if he has enough intelligence to perform the very minor duties attached to the office. He will not be appointed on any basis of social status or of wealth It is easier to speak in the negative way of this thing than in the positive, but he will not be appointed on any basis of that kind, and he will not be a person who, by the nature of his occupation, would be particularly open to corruption of any kind. He will not, for instance, be a licensed vinter. Now, about these Clerks, and from the Clerks we almost get into the region of patronage generally. There will be dissatisfaction, you can take it. There always is, in the matter of appointments which carry emoluments. No Government in any country, at any period, discovered a formula of any kind that would remove such dissatisfaction. The man who applies for a position, and does not get it, is always dissatisfied; and no man applies for a position saying: "I am not the best man for this job, but I hope you will give it to me." No one says that, at least I have not met such a man. He does not say: "I want this position because I knew your father." What he does say is: "I want the position because I am the best man, and, incidentally, I knew your father." When you have ten men applying for a position, each believing absolutely——

And all of them knowing your father.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

Each of them, as I say, believing absolutely that he is the one and only man for the position—that, in fact, he has a kind of vocation for it, you can only give it to one of the ten. The other nine are going to be dissatisfied, and the people will hear about it. They will write and speak about it. And so, when I hear appointments spoken of as unfortunate and unpopular, I know all appointments are regarded as unfortunate by someone, and all appointments are unpopular with someone. One particular appointment was spoken of as having had to be cancelled. That appointment was not made by the Department, nor was it sanctioned by the Department. It was a purely temporary, carrying-on appointment made by the District Justice for his own convenience. The mistake arose in this way. I am going to explain, though I do not think it is right to have details of this kind discussed here. I would much prefer to speak to the Deputy himself about it.

I do not wish to raise the details.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

The mistake arose in this way. A list was sent down containing names that had been recommended to the Department—the name set out, then the qualifications, and then a column for remarks. The remarks were not the remarks of the Department. They were the remarks of the people making the recommendation, and they were simply sent down to the District Justice for his own information. I agree that those who acted in a similar capacity under the Second Dáil with regard to the Courts set up by that Second Dáil ought to get consideration, and I might state very positively that in fact they have got consideration. But let us not so soon allow mists to intervene between ourselves and that period, and let us, as a matter of historical accuracy, say that these clerks, taking them as a whole, did not carry on in office under great stress. What are the facts, as a matter of historical accuracy? Those Courts had a hectic few months in the summer of 1920. They were on all lips; they were in all the papers. That was during the period immediately after the R.I.C. had been beaten out of the outlying stations and were concentrated in the large towns. And there were May, June, July, August and September not quite so hectic. After that, when the business started in hammer and tongs style, it became practically impossible to hold those Courts. It became impossible to have solicitors and barristers and large numbers of witnesses turning up, and, for the most part, through the country there was nothing more heard of those Courts until after the Truce. I am talking not in heightened fiction nor in blank verse. I am talking dead, rock-bottom, stone-cold truth. Wherever possible, and where they were fit and well qualified, the men who performed these functions for the Second Dáil have got an extremely good look-in in filling the present appointments. There is another class of man deserving of some consideration, in spite of what I think Deputy Davin said, and that is the man who filled that position after his fashion and according to his lights and according to the administration of the time—the man who served the people in that capacity for fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years back—the old Petty Sessions Clerk. We must always discriminate. It is not in itself a stigma to call a man an ex-Head Constable of the R.I.C. Let us not forget, in our newly won liberties, that there was a time when there was very, very little stigma indeed attaching to the man who went into that force. Let us not forget that it was the height of the ambition of most young fellows who happened to be five feet nine or thereabouts.

A DEPUTY

They had nothing else open to them.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

I am not discussing what they had open to them; I am talking facts. It is no more a stigma than to refer to a man as an ex-British soldier, and we try to forget that at one time three-fourths of the country favoured and backed the people who were preaching the policy of recruiting for the British Army.

On a point of order, I think the Minister is labouring under the delusion that I made an attack upon him. That is not so. I merely dealt with the facts from the wording of the document before us.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

I am trying to show that it is not in itself a stigma that a man should be an old Petty Sessions Clerk or an ex-Head Constable of the R.I.C. Neither of these things of itself is bad. That may seem an astounding thing to say. But I will stand over it before any tribunal. All possible care will be taken, but you have to remember that there are several considerations entering into the question of who is the man best fitted for a particular post. Certain consideration must be given to local feeling about the matter. You have simply to weigh one thing with another and try to strike a balance—the men's qualifications or amount of capacity to fulfil the duties attaching to the position; the local feeling about it, because it is eminently desirable that the Courts should be popular, but not at the expense of their respectability—I am not using the word "respectability" in any priggish sense. I myself feel that we have done the best and made the closest investigation. We have consulted local people, and for every single appointment that has been made I could show in my department a file piled high backing it, by people with local knowledge, people who—to use Deputy Lyons's expression—"kept the ball rolling," and so on. I await the day that somebody will make the wonderful discovery that will lead to universal satisfaction with regard to paid appointments. On the whole, a Chinn Chomhairle, I am glad that sufficient thought has been given to this matter to obviate one particular line of criticism which I rather thought would come, and that was the line: "Oh! this is a tyrannical and reactionary measure; you are doing away with the honorary justices the only little bit of control the people had, and so on." Well, the people had the minimum of real control with the honorary justices, and this particular measure will ensure a cleaner, straighter, more impartial, more impersonal administration of the laws that the people make and sanction here through their representatives than there ever existed in this country before.

Motion put: "That the District Justices (Temporary Provisions) Bill be read a second time."

Agreed.