It is difficult not to have sympathy with the Postmaster-General in this matter. He, as is indicated, has suffered more, perhaps, than any other individual concerned at the hands of those who circulate calumnies, and it is obviously natural on his part that he should require henceforth that all evidence should be taken in the presence of the Press, so that the machinery and engines of calumniation should, if not actually reduced to silence, at least find their work more of an inventive nature and more open to criticism on the part of the general public. I have thought of the Postmaster-General in this matter as he would appear to the political cartoonist. He is a sort of King Lear, biding the pelting of the pitiless storm—the whistling of broadcasting inferior reception instruments undergoing tuning up, so that the oscillations produce new noises for every listener-in, and the inscription underneath would be that pathetic line of the play: "I am a man more sinned against than sinning." But might I suggest to the Postmaster-General that the proper time for him to have brought this motion before the House was long ago when he, as a witness, was called more than once before the Committee, at first to give original evidence and later rebutting evidence. He knew very well how valuable it would be in his conception of the value of publicity. This motion comes when the Committee has ceased to take evidence. In its amended form, if it is put to the Dáil, it is an abortion, a dead letter; it is of no effect. The last meeting of the Committee to take evidence is over, and the Committee is now preparing its report so that the motion, as amended, simply means that you do nothing, and that you are called upon to do nothing.
The Postmaster-General has himself revised the script of his evidence for the final form of publication. Copies are sent out to all the witnesses to give them an opportunity of correcting the grammar and of making what are called verbal alterations, not, of course, of mending their hand, so that the Postmaster-General, of all men, ought to have been aware of the advanced stage reached in the proceedings of the Committee. A malicious-minded person might suggest reasons for this twelfth hour resolution, but I do not propose to play that role on this occasion. The Postmaster-General has forgotten in some of his remarks—it is obvious in making them that he had forgotten— that there was no resolution or determination, as I have already explained, on the part of the Committee to exclude the Press. The Press did not come to the meetings of this Special Committee. We have been comparatively silent upon this matter hitherto. There was one newspaper that did make application to the Committee, but it was not for the presence of a representative to hear the evidence and report it faithfully to the public; it was in the nature of an overture to a member of the Committee that he should disclose, prematurely, the report that the Committee would make to enable his paper to have a "scoop," as it is called in journalistic phraseology. That was the sole application made to the Committee on the part of the Press until the twelfth day of the proceedings, and had they been admitted on that day—and it is only fair to Deputy Johnson to say that he was one of the two who voted for their admission—but had the Press been admitted on that day it would have had the effect of giving to the public the answering evidence of A without hearing the evidence to which it was an answer as given by B on a previous or earlier occasion. The Committee, by a majority, more than a two-thirds majority, decided that in the interests of the public it would be better that as no Press representatives had been present hitherto that the Press should remain away until the end. That was not predetermined opposition to the Press; it was not due to any desire to curb the Press or limit its privileges or interfere in any way with the great service it renders to the public through the publicity, such as it is, which it affords.
We have been accused of breaking all the laws, and the Ceann Comhairle has been accused of being a co-partner in our guilt. The Postmaster-General is evidently one of those who believe that under the Constitution, Article 25, the Press must be admitted. Article 25 of the Constitution lays it down that the meetings of each House of the Oireachtas shall be public, and they are public so long as the official notetakers are present. The highest and the best form of publicity is provided for all the proceedings of the Oireachtas, and the same form of excellent publicity was provided for at our proceedings by the presence of the official notetakers. The official notetakers attend the Dáil and give a verbatim report of our proceedings. They do not pick and choose. They report every word that is spoken; even surreptitious asides that I have been weak enough to indulge in occasionally I find recorded permanently in the pages of these most faithful official reports. That is the publicity that is called for in the Constitution, and that publicity is uniformly provided. A verbatim report is published and is available to the whole world at large. Similarly, we had publicity of that sort, too, and it now happens in the sequel that most of the evidence we took in the absence of the Press will be forthcoming for the public to read and study. I say advisedly that the evidence we took in the absence of the Press, because we did not consider its absence up to the twelfth day. These important sittings which might have provided such spicey and sensational items that they would call forth striking captions in the newspapers, took place, almost all of them, before the twelfth day—not all of them—and the Press was not present, not because we determined they should not be present, but because they determined themselves that they should not be present. They did not want to be there, and did not ask to be there, but one paper had sufficient interest to want to know the result before anyone else could be aware of it. Further than that, that newspaper interest did not extend. What good purpose does the Postmaster-General think he will serve by bringing forward this resolution now? It helps to fill the public mind with the idea that something is being kept back. I do not accuse him of having that as his motive, but that is how it will appear. It will appear that this inveterately villainous committee has been forced by the Postmaster-General, into whose administration it was inquiring, to come into the light of day. I could write the leading article on the subject myself with the utmost ease. I would invite the Dáil to say that this motion comes too late as a direction to the Committee. It was never necessary, never really or genuinely necessary, and coming now it is absolutely unnecessary, because too late.