Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Friday, 3 Aug 1923

Vol. 4 No. 24


I beg to move the following resolution:—

"That it is hereby declared that the Bill entitled The Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1923, which has been passed by this House, is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace and safety, and that, accordingly, the provisions of Article 47 of the Constitution of Saorstát Eíreann shall not apply to that Bill."

This resolution, which the Dáil is asked to pass, is rendered necessary by the decision given in the Courts, which mean that the Defence Forces Bill passed by the Dáil, and which was yesterday passed in the Seanad without amendment, could not come into force for seven days. That would mean that legally I would have no power in the meantime to have or control an army or to discipline them, and that I would have no power to detain in custody military prisoners convicted of offences punishable under the military law. For that reason, and in order that the Defence Forces Bill may have legal effect as from the time of its passing, it is necessary to have this resolution passed by the Dáil. A similar resolution was yesterday passed by the Seanad.

I second the motion.

I am not going to oppose this resolution if it be deemed a matter of necessity. I only want to say that it was the intention of the Constitution that certificates of this kind should be used very sparingly, and that they should be the exception rather than the rule. This is the third resolution of this nature that we have been asked to pass within two days. I mention the matter, not for the purpose of opposing the resolution or to throw any obstruction in the way, but to urge that certificates to make one of the provisions of the Constitution null and void, if they are used, should be used sparingly. I should be reluctant to think that the Minister for Home Affairs will press for a certificate on the Intoxicating Liquors Bill.

I do not know what grounds Deputy Figgis has for his reluctance to believe that the Minister for Home Affairs would press such a claim. There is at least as much necessity for that as for this. This Bill was a Bill of 200 odd clauses. It was submitted to us last week, and it was asked that it should not be considered in detail because there was need for regularising the acts of the Army in the past and putting the Army on a legal footing. It was made a temporary Bill, to last twelve months, and it was not suggested that it was a matter of supreme urgency. But for the suddenly disclosed intention to dissolve within a week or two there would have been time given for consideration of this Bill. It was only on account of the sudden decision to dissolve, and because the consideration of the Bill in detail would require considerable time, that the Dáil was persuaded to agree to its passing as a temporary Bill without full discussion. There was no suggestion made that it was a matter of immediate urgency. Now we are asked to say that it was. The Minister has not yet told us where the immediacy is, and surely seven days is not going to make it impossible. There is no sign whatever that there is any intention on the parts of two-fifths of the Dáil or the majority of the Seanad to move for the holding up of this Bill for ninety days. There is not the slightest sign that the country is wild about the Bill, for or against. The country knows nothing about it. This procedure suggests that it is a cheap matter and a small matter passing a resolution of this kind, and that it need not be considered. The Constitution does not matter; it was passed in a hurry and to achieve certain objects, and those objects having been attained, they can be thrown overboard. We, at least, ought to show some semblance of respect to that child of the Provisional Parliament, and unless there are good grounds stated here for this resolution, I think the Dáil should not agree to it. Deputy Figgis points out that it was only to meet cases of extreme urgency that such a proviso was inserted. We ought to be told where the urgency lies before being asked to pass this resolution.

The necessity for passing this declaration arises out of the very unexpected decision of the Court given yesterday. While not agreeing that that is a proper and justified decision, it is necessary formally to accept it. The necessity for passing this resolution does not arise, in our opinion, out of any particular clause in the Constitution, but out of a misinterpretation of such a clause. The effect of the decision of the Court given yesterday, together with the effect of the decision given a day or two ago that a state of war did not exist, puts the Executive Council and those responsible for the Army in the position that, if we do not get this declaration passed now, for the next seven days there is no soldier in the Army who can be held to be responsible or subject to his immediate superior officers; there is no military prisoner, no prisoner convicted of any charges brought against him by his military superiors who, on a habeas corpus application, may not be set at liberty; there is no officer in the Army who has any legal right to arrest any soldier in the Army who has committed an offence either against the military law or against the civil law. It is to obviate a state of affairs like that, which I am sure the Dáil does not wish to have existing, that because of this exceptional decision in the Courts yesterday it is necessary to get this resolution passed.

Motion put and declared carried.