Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 31 Jul 1923

Vol. 4 No. 21



It will be recollected that one of the first problems that confronted the Provisional Government after its establishment was the matter of organising a police force to take the place in the country of the Royal Irish Constabulary which it was agreed with the British Government would be disbanded. For that end a committee was set up to advise the Government. That committee having sat for some weeks recommended the formation of a new police force in Saorstát Eireann, excluding the Dublin Metropolitan Police District. They recommended that the Police Force would be centrally controlled, and responsible to the Executive Government. That recommendation was accepted and acted upon by the Provisional Government, and a start was made at the organising of the Civic Guard. This Bill is brought forward with a view to giving the Executive Council Statutory power to raise, train, equip, pay and maintain the Civic Guard, and from time to time to determine within the limits set out in the Schedule the strength of the Force. Subject to the general regulations to be made by the Minister for Home Affairs, it is proposed to vest in a Commissioner of the Guard general directions and control of the Force. The Bill provides that the appointment of the Commissioner and the other officers of the Force shall be made by the Executive Council. As the force is not local, but is an organised National Police Force, it is essential that it should not exist out of the immediate authority of the Executive Council. A provision that all officers should be appointed by the Executive Council will give a proper constitutional derivation to their authority, and a proper direction to their allegiance. I want to direct the attention of Deputies for a moment to Section 4, Sub-section 1 of the Bill. It reads: "The officers of the Civic Guard shall be divided into the several ranks specified in the First Schedule to this Act, and all such officers below the rank of Surgeon shall be appointed, and may at any time be dismissed, by the Executive Council, and may be from time to time promoted or degraded by the Commissioner in accordance with regulations made under this Act."

It is felt that to preserve strictly the theory that all Executive power and authority wielded in the country is, in fact, the delegated power and authority of the people, that commissions in this police force should be given by and on behalf of the Executive Council, and it is clear that commissions can be withdrawn only by the body that gives them. In the Executive Council is pooled the Executive authority in the country. The people delegate to their representatives in the Dáil their own power which in turn is entrusted to a Committee of the Dáil itself which is called the Executive Council. That Executive Council is a pool of the fountain head of the Executive authority of the country, and that is delegated out on well-defined conditions to individuals. The Act of withdrawing that Executive authority which is derived from the people must be from the body which delegated it. Therefore, the commissions to officers in this Force will be held as from the Executive Council, and the Executive Council must perform the Executive act of withdrawing these commissions, if withdrawal is considered necessary. I want to make this point clear. You cannot put a man at the head of a force of this kind and expect him to preserve proper discipline, and to attain a high standard of efficiency, and at the same time proceed to undermine his authority or to undermine the discipline of the force. I want to make it particularly clear to members of the public, and to members of the force itself that the Executive Council will act through well defined channels, and will in fact act on the recommendations of the person who is placed at the head of the force. It would be a fatal thing if members of the Guard or members of the force were to get any idea into their heads that by personal contact, let us say, with politicians, or otherwise, that they could provide for themselves a Court of Appeal from disciplinary decisions of their own authorities. That is not the position. It will be a disciplinary offence if any member of the Guard attempts to secure contact with the Executive Council, or with members of the Executive Council, otherwise than through the recognised channels of seniority and rank. In a young force it is necessary to stress and to emphasise things that are recognised as being a matter of course amongst older disciplined bodies, and consequently I want to dwell for a moment on that aspect of Section 4 Sub-section (1), that the Executive Council could not entrust to an individual the task of enforcing discipline and of maintaining efficiency of that particular force if his word did not go every time in matters concerning the internal discipline of the Guard. Therefore, what is maintained under Section 4, Sub-section (1) is that the withdrawal of the delegated authority of the people from any individual, must be an Executive Act, an Act of the Executive Council; but I want to make it clear that the Executive Council will act through well defined channels, and on the recommendation of its responsible official who is placed in charge of that particular force. Members of the force will be required to take a declaration pledging themselves to be faithful in their employment to the Executive Council. That declaration is set out in the Schedule, and states that they are to render true service and obedience to Saorstát Eireann and its constitutional Government. The maximum strength of the force is set out in the Schedule. The maximum estimated strength required is 4,119 ordinary Guards; the statutory maximum is 4,400, leaving a margin of about 200, if it should be considered necessary. There will be a small Reserve Force maintained in the Depot, a Reserve Force of about 200.

This force will be there to meet any calls that may be made for extra police from particular areas. If that number of 200 is kept as a floating number of men returning to the Depot from time to time, gradually in about three or four years the whole force will have passed back through the Depot, and the matter of keeping such a Reserve will not be a waste. Men who go on Reserve like that in the Depot can be taking special courses, and in any case it is perhaps to the good that the longest time that any member of the force would be away from his headquarters would be, speaking roughly, about three or four years. If you take it that there is a body of 200 men on Reserve in the Depot for three months, that would be 800 men passing through the Depot in one year, and in four years that would practically cover the entire force. It might be just as well that policemen would have an opportunity of doing special courses in that way when they are called back to the Reserve. Section 6 proposes to confer on the Minister for Home Affairs powers to make regulations to govern the general distribution of the Guard throughout the country. It is at present proposed to occupy 807 stations, but the ultimate scheme of distribution can be fixed only in the light of experience. The number of barracks in the occupation of the R.I.C. on the 1st June, 1914, exclusive of those situated in the Six North-Eastern Counties, was 1,129; the proposed total establishment of the Civic Guard provides for 807 stations. It is, perhaps, unnecessary to go into a comparison of the strength at this stage. If Deputies were interested I could, in answer to a question, give a comparison of the strength of the Guard with the actual strength of the R.I.C. in the twenty-six counties in 1914.

It is proposed that the rates of pay and allowances and the pension scheme of the Civic Guard should be regulated by orders to be made by the Minister for Home Affairs, with the sanction of the Minister for Finance. These orders will require to be laid before the Dáil, and the Pensions Scheme will not become operative unless approved by resolution of the Dáil. Provision is made in Section 10 for the holding of inquiries and the examination on oath of complaints of neglect or violation of duties which may be preferred against members. Members of the Guard are required to give one month's notice of their intention to resign, unless authorised to do so by a senior officer, and to deliver up, on resignation or dismissal, all clothing, etc., supplied to them. Provision is made for the creation of representative bodies to enable members of the Guard to bring to the notice of the Commissioner or of the Minister matters affecting their welfare and efficiency, other than questions of discipline and promotions affecting individuals. Attempts to cause disaffection amongst members of the Guard or to induce members of the Guard to commit a breach of discipline will be punishable by fine or imprisonment. Unlawful possession of clothing supplied to any member of the Guard will be similarly punished. In Section 18 there is provision that the costs and charges incurred in respect of the Civic Guard shall be paid by the money provided by the Oireachtas, and provision is made in Sub-section (2) of that section to preserve the existing liability of local bodies under any of the statutes mentioned in the Fourth Schedule in respect of the Food and Drugs Act and the Weights and Measures Act and the conveyance of prisoners and lunatics. It is proposed in Section 19 to create a Fund, to be called the "Civic Guard Reward Fund," for the reward or benefit of the Civic Guard in such manner as may be arranged. This Fund shall be composed mainly of disciplinary fines imposed on members of the Guard. It is proposed to repeal the provisions of the Constabulary Acts relating to the organisation or internal administration of the R.I.C. There are very numerous references in other Acts, such as the Summary Jurisdiction Act, to officers and other members of the R.I.C. The repeal of such Acts is not practicable, and it is accordingly necessary to adapt references of that kind, and that is covered by Section 20. Section 21 provides for the application of the Bill to the existing force known as the Civic Guard, and for giving retrospective statutory recognition to that force.

I second the motion.

My objection to this Bill is similar in character to the objection to the Military Defence Bill. The proposition was that there was a necessity for introducing a Bill and passing it to legalise the Civic Guard, and we all agree, I think, that that was necessary. But we did not expect to be asked to consider a detailed scheme for the organisation of a police force for the future. This Bill purports to make a Constitution for a police force for the country—a centralised police force—and we are asked to do that in these last two or three days of a session. I say that that is not fair. It is not reasonable, and it ought not to be proceeded with. Facilities to legalise the present organisation, to carry it on until there is time to examine a Bill relating to the establishment of a police force, could have been accepted without demur, but I think that this Bill raises quite a number of questions of controversy that would require a good deal of consideration. It cannot have that consideration if we are to deal with the other Bills that are coming forward. There are questions that might be raised on every one of those points that the Minister has endeavoured to describe, and a good deal of examination and comparison between this Bill and the organisation that is proposed to be set up in this Bill with other police forces, and this is not intended to be a temporary Bill. It is to be a permanent establishment of a police force. The organisation is set forth. The whole scheme, penalties, discipline, and the like, are set forth, and we are asked to pass the Second Reading and to pass the Bill into law really without consideration. I do not think that that is carrying out the intention of what was more or less a general agreement that non-contentious or formal measures could be passed, and that certain steps would be taken to legalise the existing institutions. This is not merely legalising the present Civic Guard, but it is formulating a Constitution for the Civic Guard and making it a permanent force, without giving us an opportunity to examine and criticise the measure. We have in Section 14, for instance, a scheme which has only just been imposed on the London Metropolitan Police, and we do not know how it is working out. We cannot tell whether it is satisfactory, or leading to a better disciplined and more efficient police force. But it is being put upon us here, and upon this Force, whether we like it or not. This question of a Reward Fund, practically in its essence is an encouragement to over-officiousness. I do not think that it is a desirable clause to put into a Bill, and I do not think it is at all a satisfactory method of encouraging the proper observance of duties to reward officers for extra zeal in finding out petty offenders. These references to the membership of various kinds of societies and organisations, too, I think would require some examination. One need not be accused of trying to make a police force a political body, when one objects to the decitizenising of policemen; and to impose upon a policeman the obligation that he will not belong to any political society or subscribe to any political society whatsoever, is, I think, going too far in the de-grading of a citizen once he becomes a policeman. A political society would have to be defined, and subscribing to a political society may mean agreement with a political society. It does not follow that the word "subscribe" means to subscribe money. The whole Bill would require examination, and I submit that it is going beyond the promise that only non-contentious measures would be submitted and required to be passed before the Dissolution. I think that it is not beyond the capacity of the draftsmen at the disposal of the Government to introduce a Bill which would say that the present Civic Guard, and its present establishment, is legalised, and that, pending the enactment of a measure drawing up the Constitution of such a police force, the present force would have legal authority and legal sanction. It seems to me that it is unnecessary in any way to go into all these details as to the future composition of a police force. I object to the attempt to force us into passing a permanent Bill without an opportunity for proper examination.

Strong as was the case for a temporary Bill for the Army, the case for a temporary Bill for the Civic Guard is much stronger. Deputy Johnson has shown quite conclusively that the measure before us is a controversial measure; at least, in several of the sections it raises issues that are of a most controversial nature. Not only that, but there is the argument, somewhat analogous to the point made on the Army Bill by Deputy FitzGibbon, that it is quite allowable that there should be different conceptions of the nature of a permanent police force in Ireland. This provides for one kind of police force. The strength of arguments may be in favour of that particular kind, that is a strongly centralised police force, at this moment, and until such time as things in Ireland become somewhat normal, but undoubtedly, if we were in normal time there would be a great strength of feeling in favour of a different and, perhaps, more localised police force. That is not possible under this Bill. Deputy Johnson has mentioned some of the points that are controversial, and some of the things that require definition. There are one or two others which I will refer to briefly. One is in the Second Schedule, the form of declaration to be taken by the Guards. It is very elaborate, much more elaborate and much more inclusive, I think, than the oath to be taken by soldiers or officers in the army, but at the end of it there is this declaration:—"And I will not while I hold the said office join, belong, or subscribe to any political society whatsoever, or to any secret society whatsoever." I put it to the Dáil that it is equally necessary that there should be a definition of what a secret society is, as that there should be a definition of what a political society is.

Are we to take it, for instance, that under these are included such bodies as, let us say, the A.O.H., the Masonic Order, the I.R.B., and various other organisations of that type? From time to time bodies of that kind have been popular, and have been sometimes politically described as secret societies. Other organisations might conceivably come under the definition. Take purely friendly societies of various kinds whose membership is not known publicly, and on which there is no legal obligation to declare their membership, are these, or are they not, to be included under this very wide heading of secret societies? It would require to be defined. There is another point in Section 11 which, I think, would require some consideration. "No member of the Civic Guard below the rank of Chief Superintendent shall be at liberty to resign his membership, or to withdraw himself from his duties as such member unless authorised so to do in writing by the Chief Superintendent of the Area in which he may for the time being be stationed." These are points which undoubtedly, if time permitted, would raise a good deal of discussion and clarification, and perhaps if we could give them the time necessary, would receive amendment in Committee. I do not think it is at all possible to do that within the two or three days that remain to us, and having regard to the measures that have come before the Dáil, but I do put it, with Deputy Johnson, that the least the Minister could do, would be to make it a purely temporary measure, and even making it a temporary measure will not remove it from the sphere of controversy, because there are some sections in it which can only be reluctantly agreed to in the circumstances.


I realise the force of the objections urged by the Deputy that there is scarcely time to give the Bill regulating the future of the police of the country the consideration that it deserves. At the same time, I feel that there are very few of the 23 Sections of this Bill that any considerable contention could arise about. There are some. Some have been mentioned by the two Deputies who have spoken, but I would ask them to accept as a suggestion that the operations of the Bill be limited to twelve months, and that would give the next Dáil ample time to go very fully into the whole matter. I would urge twelve months rather than six months, because to confine the lifetime of this Bill to six months might involve the matter being considered under pressure by the next Parliament. At least one month will go practically from the time of the dissolution of this Parliament until the meeting of the next. That would mean that a six months' lifetime would bind the next Parliament to the consideration of this whole question inside the first five months of its existence. I would ask the Deputy to agree to an alteration limiting the operations of the Bill to twelve months, and leaving the matter of the permanent consideration of this question to the next Parliament.

I would like to add my voice to the suggestion that there be a limitation of the Bill and the arguments that have been adduced in favour of it, which arguments have been accepted by the Minister— that twelve months would be a better period than six months—and for a reason that came forcibly before my mind in looking at the Fifth Schedule, because the Fifth Schedule sets out a series of the Acts which are to be repealed in whole or in part. There are some of them that are entirely repealed, and there are some of them that are only preserved in so far as one or two sections are concerned. I presume if a final enactment were to be drafted the procedure adopted in many places would lend itself to careful consideration— whether the new enactment should not repeal all existing legislation and be the document from which the future would date. In that case, if all these had to be gathered together and framed into an entirely new statute, there is no question about it that six months would be too short a time; it would be a complicated business. I am glad the Minister has agreed to the suggestion that this be regarded as a temporary measure, and that its being so regarded should be registered in the section. I do urge, for the reasons he has stated, in addition to the one I have now mentioned, that twelve months would be a more satisfactory period than six months.

I was going to move an amendment that this Act should expire at the end of six months. I realise that there is some force in the argument in favour of a longer period of trial. I am prepared to agree to a twelve months period on an understanding, so far as this Dáil can come to an understanding of the kind. I realise that it is almost futile, certainly not very valuable, for a member here now, or a Minister there now, to pledge the future. Nevertheless, I think that, so far as the members who are here to-day can make any promise in regard to these Acts that we are passing as temporary Acts, there should be an understanding that they shall not be included in some Expiring Laws Continuance Act, but that they will as a matter of fact, expire and new legislation be introduced. There is always a danger that the Schedule might be attached to a certain Bill, and it would be called number so and so of the year 1923, and this Act is continued. Nobody knows what it is about without very close research. I want to make clear, so far as it is possible, that these Acts will, as a matter of fact, expire, and that new legislation will be introduced to deal with the subject, that they will go through the regular process of introduction, Second Reading and Committee examination.


So far as it can affect anything, I would agree to have it go on record that this Bill, at any rate, gets a measure of consent and acquiescence that it would not otherwise get on condition that when its legal lifetime expires either this Bill, or some alternative Bill, will be brought formally before the Dáil and go through all the proper stages of legislation.

Motion made and question put: "That the Bill be now read a second time."


When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?


I wonder would it feel very brutal if I suggested that we might take the Committee Stage now? We have more or less settled the question of the lifetime of the Bill. I think that, having settled that, it is scarcely seriously proposed to give the Bill the detailed critical analysis that it would get if it were a permanent measure. I would like to hear Deputy Johnson's view on the matter.

My only doubt is whether there is anything in the Bill which would make the position of a member of the Civic Guard after the period of twelve months has expired a difficult one. Supposing any change in the constitution of the future Police Force was made, I do not want to prejudice the position of a member of the Civic Guard after this Act has expired.

What form would the amendment take?


The amendment would consist of a small additional section saying that the Act shall endure for twelve months, and shall then expire.

In that case perhaps the Minister might consider the identical wording of the Defence Forces Bill.


That identical wording would suit, with the change for Civic Guard.

May I hope, so far as the Minister can influence regulations, that we shall not have a repetition under 16 of the farce in relation to the "Rising of the Moon" and the policeman's uniform?

Is it agreed to take the Committee Stage now?

Committee Stage ordered to be taken.