Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 31 Jul 1923

Vol. 4 No. 21


Would the amendment which has been agreed to regarding the duration of the Act be to add a sub-section to Section 1, stating that the Act shall continue in force until other provisions shall have been made by law, but shall not continue in any case in force after a period of one year from the date of the passing of the Act?

There is a certain advantage in having a section of this kind at the very outset. Would it meet the case if Section 24, with this addition, were to be made Section 1?


We could move Section 24 up to Section 1, and say: "This Act may be cited as The Civic Guard (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923."

The amendment, then, is: "To insert before Section 1, `This Act may be cited as The Civic Guard (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923.' "

Amendment agreed to.


I now move a new sub-section: "This Act shall continue in force until other provisions shall have been made by law for the establishment in Saorstát Eireann and the regulation of a police force, to be called the Civic Guard and shall not in any case continue in force after the period of one year from the date of the passing hereof."

I do not know whether that amendment would not prejudice the proposal which might be made that the D.M.P. be consolidated in the Civic Guard, or that a regular change in the method of the policing of the country be made.

It would hardly prejudice it any more than the Bill does as it stands.

It might be a very long time before we would establish a police force to be called the Civic Guard.

We are getting into very deep water now.

The amendment amounts to this, I think, that this Bill will continue in force until a police force to be called the Civic Guard is established by law. That would prejudice the position of the future Dáil. We want to establish a police force, and we are quite prepared to prejudice a future Dáil to that extent, but we are not going to say that it shall be the Civic Guard or anything else.


I see the Deputy's objection to stereotyping the name. I do not see much objection to omitting the words "to be called the Civic Guard."

Do I understand Deputy Johnson's point is that until new legislation comes, the force that remains in virtue of this legislation shall continue to be called the Civic Guard?

The section as altered would read: "This Act shall continue in force until other provisions shall have been made by law for the establishment and regulation of a police force in Saorstát Eireann, and shall not in any case continue in force after the period of one year from the date of the passing hereof."

Amendment agreed to.
Motion made and question put: "That the new section, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
Sections 1 to 23, inclusive, put and agreed to.
Question: "That Section 24 be deleted," put and agreed to.
First Schedule ("Maximum Establishment of Civic Guard") agreed to, and added to the Bill.
Motion made and question proposed: "That the Second Schedule ("Form of Declaration") be the Second Schedule of the Bill.

On this schedule I want to ask the Minister whether the last three lines, "I do not now belong, 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," are essential at this stage, and whether the declaration would not be quite strong enough without them. I was going to raise the point as to the terms of employment or rather the relations between the Civic Guard and the State through the Ard-Chomhairle. But I am told that at least in the definition we have been using that that means the Chief Council. If that is so I take it that it means the Executive Council, and that being so, I think it is satisfactory. With regard to the last three lines, even for the first twelve months, these three lines are not necessary and may rather create friction than smooth matters over. The whole position of the citizen who is a policeman can be considered anew under the new legislation.

I referred to this matter yesterday in connection with another matter altogether. I am not quite sure I know what the words "political society" are. I do know the words "political organisation," and in that matter I am not greatly concerned. But in regard to the last six words, "or to any secret society whatsoever," I hope the Minister will adhere to the retention of these words in the declaration and in the oath. I would like to have them added to the Army oath as well. At any rate, I hope they will be retained in this oath.


I feel myself, if this provision were not embodied in the declaration, that it would have to be dealt with by some disciplinary regulation. Deputies will understand at once the extreme inadvisibility and extreme unwisdom of allowing members of the police force which is instituted to serve and protect the people impartially and impersonally from becoming associated with partisan politics of any brand while in their office, and as to the secret society aspect of the thing, it is clearly impossible to allow the servants of the State, the servants of the people, to join an organisation of the commitments of which we naturally and necessarily are unaware. These commitments may or may not conflict with the duties attached to the office; they may, or they may not, undermine the discipline of the Force, but what I submit is it is not a thing you can afford to have any doubt about whatever. You are entitled to say to the people serving you in an individual capacity that, "You must not join any society, or undertake any obligation of which we are unaware, and which may, for all the knowledge we possess, conflict, and conflict very radically, with the proper discharge of your duty." That is the view of the matter I take, and I feel that if this were not dealt with specifically and explicitly in the form of declaration members take it would have to be dealt with very specifically in disciplinary regulations.

But I think it is not too much to ask of an individual, coming into the service of the people in this capacity, that he should strip himself of an association of that kind, and that he should agree to stand aloof during his period of service free from partisan, political associations, and that he will agree also not to go into a society which may have commitments, and which at any rate will have commitments, that in the very nature of the case cannot be known to his employers— the people. It is upon these grounds that I thought it wise to insert this provision in the declaration, and submit it to the Dáil. If a strong view were expressed here—and when I say a strong, I mean strong in emphasis and strong numerically—for the deletion of these last lines, well, there is no use in my pretending that I would not be forced by that to take another view of the matter, but if that provision were to go out of the declaration it would have to come in in disciplinary regulations, I would consider that the position of the head of a police force would be impossible if its members were free to join political organisations, or to go into secret societies which would have commitments of which he would have no definite knowledge.

I have no desire to make it possible or to encourage Civic Guards or any other public servants to join secret societies. I am in the happy position of not knowing anything about secret societies, and I have often smiled when I have been approached by opponents of one secret society, telling me all about the enormities and the evil things of such a secret society, what tremendous power it has over this body and over that Government; and then I hear from another side about the tremendous power and influence of the opposite secret society. We are used to hearing about the Catholic Orangemen and the Orange Hibernians, and I think the same charges are made by secret societies of one kind against secret societies of the opposite persuasion, and most of them have political or religious persuasions. I am glad I know nothing about them; but I think that the reference here in the declaration to political societies is an unfortunate thing to put into a Bill, and in such vague phraseology it may easily cause a good deal of trouble. I do not believe in the attempt to prevent a Civic Guard having an opinion on public matters and of approving of the action of other people on public matters. That is practically what this prohibition would mean. It would mean, for instance, that a man could not subscribe to a society having for its object the abolition of capital punishment, because the object of that society is a political object, and might easily be construed into being a political object. It could only be accomplished by a political act. There are hundreds of causes which might be dealt with by political societies —societies having a political objective, and confining that political objective to one subject; and this clause is so framed as to make it impossible for a citizen who is a policeman to support or to belong to any such society. A regulation made by the Commissioner to prohibit active participation in partly political propaganda, or something of that kind, might be desirable, but it would require care in the working out, and this has not that care, and hence I think the last two lines ought to be deleted.

Surely the Minister can see that the extent to which the term "political" can be stressed is so wide that the Civic Guard would be deprived of a great number of not only the ordinary citizen's rights, but even an ordinary person's rights. The term could be applied to cultural associations. Some of these cultural associations might endeavour, either locally or nationally, to further their object by some kind of political action. Take, for instance, an association like the Gaelic League or an association for the study of the Irish language or literature; or take another, the Gaelic Athletic Association, which is for the promotion of national games. Now, it does not require any great stretch of imagination at all to describe some of these organisations as in some measure political in their object. No doubt they are composed of people of all parties and of people who belong to no parties in the accepted sense, but to some extent their object is, I think, political in a good and decent sense, or else some of the steps that some of them advocate to promote their object are political. You could take another which, at the moment, threatens to be decidedly political. I refer to certain temperance organisations. I wonder would the Minister regard these as political? I hardly think he would because he has given particular directions to the Civic Guard for the legal enforcement of certain measures of temperance; but the temperance people are undoubtedly, and will undoubtedly be, attempting to influence the decisions of the next Parliament by putting certain questions to candidates for the coming elections. If a Civic Guard man is a prohibitionist or a keen teetotaller, or if he were, for instance, a Pioneer, it might be construed that he belonged to a political organisation because that organisation was endeavouring to further its objects by political means. The words there in the declaration are so vague that they could be easily applied to all these and to many similar organisations and to associations with purely non-party objects. I think the Minister will see that the words in the declaration go too far.

I was really surprised listening to the speeches of the last two speakers. At least, I would be surprised if I thought they were serious, but I cannot believe that they were serious. I cannot believe, for instance, that Deputy O'Shannon was serious when he said it would take no great stretch of the imagination to regard a Temperance Society as a political organisation. I suppose it depends a good deal whether you belong to a Temperance Society or not, to have that particular stretch of imagination. The same Deputy made some suggestion with regard to the Gaelic League, which has hitherto been regarded as a non-political organisation, and the same applies to the Gaelic Athletic Association. So that we are not going to have politics introduced into this organisation. But I wonder do the Deputies who are opposing this realise the possibilities that might arise if Civic Guards were allowed to become active politicians, which this is tantamount to. We could imagine every barrack becoming a hotbed of politics. We could imagine every barrack consisting of a series of henchmen of some political organisation, where there would be no possibility of toleration, of freedom of speech, for the section of the community which did not agree with the politics of that particular Civic Guard barrack. I think that there is absolutely no argument, no logic, no reason, and no wisdom behind the idea that this should be deleted. I think the argument, in logic, in reason, and in wisdom, is all on the other side, and I think it would be a very grave error for the Government to allow a body of public servants, whose outstanding duty it is to maintain the peace, to become associated with one section of politics or another. How would Deputies who represent Labour like to have a Civic Guard barracks the entire members of which were vehement adherents of Deputy Gorey? How would Deputy Gorey like to have in his vicinity, or in his constituency, a series of Civic Guard barracks the occupants of which were vehement supporters of the Labour Party? How would either of these Parties like to have in their vicinity a Civic Guard barracks the occupants of which were vehement supporters of the only sane Party in the State, the Party sitting here? If we are debarred from this idea of keeping the Civic Guard, the custodians of the public peace, entirely clear of politics and aloof from all sectionalism or the various intricacies of politics, we are inflicting not only a grave injury upon the conception of what citizenship is, but also we are guilty, I think, of one of the most serious errors that we could possibly fall into in evolving a body of police who will do their duty equally to all citizens within the State.

Deputy Milroy has missed the point. It is not an uncommon complaint. There was no suggestion even of allowing Civic Guard barracks to be hotbeds of political partisanship. Even the insertion of this will not prevent that. You are not going to prevent men talking politics because you do not allow them to join a political society. It is not the act of joining a society which makes a man a politician. He is generally a politician first. The point of the objection to this is that it is too vague, and that it will not accomplish the object that Deputy Milroy seeks, but it may prevent men attaching themselves to organisations which have been frequently classed as political societies. Deputy Milroy spoke of the Gaelic League and the Gaelic Athletic Association. I have only to refer you to the files of the Belfast News-Letter, the Northern Whig, the Morning Post, and probably the Irish Times, and even the Belfast Government's official pronouncements, to show that these are political societies. It is conceivable that even in the next twelve months some new aspirant for membership of the Dáil may become Minister for Home Affairs and may decide that these are political societies. My objection to this is that it is too vague, that it is not going to accomplish the purpose sought for, and it will prevent legitimate exercise of civic rights.


It is objected that the words "political societies" are vague. I take it that politics in its essence either has to do with an attempt to change the existing Government, or with bringing pressure on the existing Government to make——


Or amend, or repeal some law. I think the case for excluding members of the police force from participation in political activity lies in the fact that, for one thing, they have to serve, and serve with the same discipline and the same efficiency, succeeding Governments and, for another thing, they have the duty, more than other persons in the State, of seeing that the law is obeyed. Whether they like it or not, whether they think that a particular law ought to be repealed or not, that happens to be their duty, the thing for which they are paid, and I do not think the undesirability of members of a police force participating in political activity needs to be stressed. It was suggested that the Gaelic League and the Gaelic Athletic Association might be held to come under that head. Well, in point of fact, I do not think that the Deputies who urged that considered it a possibility.

I certainly do.


The Civic Guard have been taking part freely, with the full consent of the Government and of their Commissioner, in Gaelic Athletic activities, and I am glad to say are almost foremost in their eagerness to learn the national language. These are not political societies, and I think that the words are not vague, and are not likely to be misunderstood by anyone. If a case of honest doubt arises it can, no doubt, be resolved by consulting the Commissioner, or by the Commissioner consulting the Ministry for Home Affairs.

This is to be an Act of the Oireachtas.


Yes, but on the question of what is and what is not a political society. If a Civic Guard has any qualms of conscience about joining the Gaelic League, he will, no doubt, ask whether the declaration he has made excludes him, and similarly with the Gaelic Athletic Association. It is impossible to say, in any cast-iron way, what is a political society. Political societies, as Deputies know, come and go, and one set may exist to-day and another to-morrow, but the general sense is clear, that the object of those few lines is to exclude members of the police force from joining political organisations or secret societies. I think the mass sense of the citizens would heartily endorse that provision, and I see no case for changing it.

The explanation is that the Minister wants us to enact phraseology which will vulgarise the term politics. It is commonly conceived as being a dirty game. I was hopeful that the Dáil would rather take the view that it is a noble game, if it is a game at all, and that it can be clean, healthy and noble, but when we are asked to assume that a political society must be a society whose purpose is to put in Governments and to put out Governments, that is asking us to conceive politics as something merely sordid and ignoble.


It has to do substantially with laws, and the making of laws, and the repealing and amending of laws, and bringing pressure on Governments to get them to do that, and failing to do that, removing them altogether. These are its chief purposes.

That is included in the term politics, but politics includes other activities that affect the National political health. I would hope that in any definition to be embodied in an act of the Oireachtas that that conception of the term politics will be in mind and not the lower and meaner conception.

Just one other point, and it disposes altogether of the Minister's exclusion from politics of certain organisations. Take the Gaelic League. I am sure that the objects of the Gaelic League are as highly political as the objects of any political organisation inside or outside of this country, and have been so for a number of years. Not only that, but it is quite a likely thing, I believe, that locally the Gaelic League may, quite properly, take steps to put certain candidates into certain bodies and, further—I think, only yesterday— that Deputies received a letter from the Gaelic League, which came to a political decision with reference to the new judiciary system. All these are in the proper sense of the word political acts and the organisation is, in the best sense of the word, a political society, and the words as they are included in the declaration, if we couple with them the conception the Minister has just given expression to, and his intention to deal perhaps widely or generously with the claims of conscientious individual Civic Guardsman, show that it is his idea that it would be within the power of the Chief Commissioner, or whoever is in charge of the Civic Guards, to say, that such and such is a political society, within the meaning of the Act, and that such and such an organisation is not a political society within the meaning of the Act. The words in the Bill are "subscribe to any political society," and if you leave the interpretation of all that to the Minister or Chief Commissioner you will find you have gone very far away from the spirit that ought to animate this Bill.

I move the deletion of the words "any political society whatsoever, or to."

Amendment put and declared lost.
The Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Schedules put and agreed to.
"An Act to establish in Saorstát Eireann, and regulate a Police Force to be called the Civic Guard."

I move to substitute Garda Síochána for the words "Civic Guard," if that would be in order.