The debate was adjourned on the amendment, and it is the amendment that is now before the Dáil.
PRIVATE BUSINESS. - THE BOUNDARY COMMISSION—(RESUMED DEBATE).
The motion and amendment are, the statements to the contrary regarding the motion notwithstanding, in the nature of a vote of nonconfidence. Dissatisfaction with the course pursued must be necessity involve the Executive Council. There are two, or possibly three, parties to Article 12. The amendment to the resolution only alters the motion by making it more exhaustive and changing the character of the motion as interpreted by Deputy Milroy.
The amendment, if passed, involves a change of Government and to the inheritors, in consequence of the passing of the amended motion, its duty to convey to the British and Northern Governments:
(a) Dissatisfaction with the course pursued in dealing with Article 12.
(b) Instruction to the Executive Council to cease participation in any further negotiations regarding the matter pending the setting up of the Boundary Commission.
(c) Insist upon the fulfilment of Article 12 in respect both to the provisions relating to the Council of Ireland and the appointment of the Boundary Commission.
(d) Fix a limit to the time to which it will assent for constituting the Commission.
Taking the last of the four conditions first, the Dáil must know that such a course involves a time-table with extensions and extensions or estimated delays at each step—contemplating that delays in this sense are unavoidable accidents—and not premeditated acts—the sum total which might reasonably be claimed could be absorbed and a good case made for unforseen contingencies. I am not satisfied that the course pursued—as Deputy Milroy's motion declares—has been entirely to my satisfaction. The correspondence which has passed between the two Governments reflects in a very fair way the opinions of the Executive Council. I am not in a position, nor would I consider it wise, to fix a time limit—nor would I, were the positions changed, seek to impose such a condition on an Executive Council, the President of which was Deputy Milroy, and the Vice-President Deputy Johnson. To fix a time limit to which it will assent for the constituting of the Commission may be read to mean that you do agree to such delay. That policy is not to be found in the correspondence between the two Governments, and if I may be permitted to express my opinion on the mind of the Northern Government it is that this boundary question should be determined without delay.
For the first time this matter has assumed a tincture of party treatment. I deprecate such a course in dealing with a matter of such very great importance. Whether the objective be dissatisfaction with the policy of the Executive Council in dealing with this Article of the Treaty or not—by this motion and amendment—the Dáil is forced to decide for or against the resolution as amended or not amended, according as Deputy Johnson's proposal is accepted or rejected. In voting against the motion you are placing the Executive Council in the position that it might be claimed elsewhere that it was satisfied with the course pursued. In that connection I may say that I would prefer that the Executive Council were removed from office by a vote of the Dáil than that it should be inferred that the true mind of the Executive Council were not reflected in the published correspondence. The amendment appears to have been occasioned by certain remarks made by the ex-Attorney-General in the debate of May 28th. His intervention in the debate arose through Deputy Johnson and Deputy Davin (especially the latter) pressing the question of inclusion of the Great Northern Railway in a particular way. They did not appear to be satisfied with the case as put by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. They insisted on attributing to the Government a line of action based on supposed inability to deal with the Great Northern Railway, and other railways which cross the Border. The ex-Attorney-General intervened for the purpose of asserting our complete sovereignty, including unlimited authority to deal with these railways so far as they are within the twenty-six counties by legislation of the Oireachtas, while explaining the liability of the Oireachtas to legislate for such railways in so far as they lie outside the territory for the time being, subject to the jurisdiction and legislative authority of the Oireachtas. The ex-Attorney-General was asserting authority where Deputy Davin particularly, was apparently attributing to the Minister for Industry and Commerce a smaller conception of our powers. I do not understand how the ex-Attorney-General could have supposed that Deputy Johnson and Deputy Davin had forgotten the provisions of the Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1922, or that they had failed to understand it, or that the provisions of that measure passed nearly two years ago were not known until three weeks ago.
Passed by whom?
By the British Parliament.
Are we supposed to know that?
It was published in the Press, and might have been known. The clause dealing with the Council of Ireland in the First Schedule to that Act was no secret at the time. The entire text of the Bill was printed in the Irish newspapers of the 27th November, 1922, and the debates in the British Parliament at every stage of the Bill were also fully reported in our newspapers. It would be absurd for public representatives to say that they took the ostrich line, and would not read the Bill when it was going cause it was the British Parliament, through the British Parliament, beeven though the Bill greatly concerned us.
The question of the position of the Council of Ireland and its difficulties in practical operation was not something newly sprung for the first time in November, 1922. It was recognised in a public document, the Collins-Craig Pact in January, 1922, and indeed the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, itself provided for the variation of the Constitution of the Council by identical legislation of the two Parliaments contemplated by that Act.
Apart from any criticism of the Constitution of the Council of Ireland under the Act of 1920, it was absolutely clear after the Treaty was made that some variations in its constitution must be made, because there was no longer a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (necessary, e.g., for Section 2 (2) (of the Act of 1920) or a Joint Exchequer Board (required for the purposes of Section 10 (5), and some alternatives to them with legislative sanction became necessary.
Moreover, General Collins had always been dissatisfied with the mode of constituting the Council as it stood in the Act of 1920, and (as appears by the Pact) he had discussed the matter with Sir James Craig for the purpose of arriving at the constitution of the Council of Ireland by agreement, which, resting on agreement, would be able to function with success.
A great many things happened between January and November of 1922, and, worst of all, General Collins had been killed. I hope the Dáil will acquit me of an ulterior motive in introducing the name of the late General Collins. I am not doing so for the purpose of any excuse or explanation. I am not including the fact of the original agreement between the late General Collins and Sir James Craig for the purpose of substantiating my case. It is now my own responsibility. If there was an error or mistake in the policy of the late General Collins in January, 1922, I have no desire to shelter myself. If the action of the Provisional Government in the arrangement entered into between the three Governments in November, 1922, were blamable, I accept it and accept the fullest responsibility for it. But I cannot suppress the fact that due and ample notice was given to the country in the first instance regarding this proposal so far back as January, 1922, and subsequently by the Press in November, 1922. No further progress had been made in evolving satisfactory proposals for the Constitution of the Council of Ireland.
One proposal had been mooted and received not unfavourably, namely meetings of the Executive Council and the Belfast Cabinet, with a view to joint action on the matters within the purview of the Council of Ireland.
The idea of joint action by the two Governments was an attractive one, but in order to make it effective it would be necessary to work out the administrative machinery through which it would operate and the mode of meeting its financial obligations. The position at the time of the passing of the Constitution was that the original Constitution of the Council of Ireland had been admitted to be defective when it came to putting it into operation; it had been recognised that the Constitution of the Council could, and should, be modified so as to make it a real and actually operative instrument of Government within its limited sphere; and no progress could be made in the matter without appropriate financial arrangements. Further, it was essential that while the Council of Ireland should, if possible, be continued, it was apparent that the setting up of the Saorstát with unlimited powers within its own territory restricted the powers of the Council contemplated by the Act of 1920.
It was necessary to get the Constitution of the Saorstát established. It was desirable to keep open the question of how the Council of Ireland was to be made real and effective. Therefore, the Provisional Government assented to a suggestion which was embodied in the Act of the British Parliament known as the Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Act, Clause 3 of the 2nd Schedule—an Act which, while still in its Bill stage, received every publicity, as I have shown, and must have been familiar to every member of the Dáil. As a matter of fact, on 27th November the Dáil was not in session. It came into session on 28th November while the Bill was in progress.
It is quite fallacious to say that the postponement is in any way a deviation of the Treaty. The Act of 1920, which in this respect has been imported into the Treaty, and upon which the Council of Ireland depends, contained a provision that days were to be appointed for the bringing into operation of its various purposes, and Section 73 of that Act provided for the postponement of the appointed day for any particular purpose at the joint request of the Governments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. Under the terms of the Treaty the Provisional Government, in addition to its other powers, succeeded to the powers conferred by the Act on the Government of Southern Ireland, and it had ample power to enter into the agreement in question. When the period of postponement of the appointed day expires—if nothing has been done in the meantime to vary or improve the Constitution of the Council of Ireland as contained in the Act of 1920, then it will be immediately called into existence as respects Northern Ireland exactly as set out in the Act of 1920. The period of postponement to which the Provisional Government assented was a period to enable further consideration to be given to proposals for the improvement of the Constitution of the Council. As I have pointed out, some such improvements are practically vital, as, for instance, substitutes must be found for the Lord Lieutenant and the Joint Exchequer Board.
I must challenge the statement that the Provisional Government was not an Executive Government. It was, in the fullest sense, and though in some respects that was not at first admitted by the British, the Provisional Government was an Executive Government, and performed the acts of Executive Government ultimately without challenge. Some of these acts must be known to Deputies. Some of them are recorded in official documents, such as Prorogation of Parliament, known to every citizen of the Saorstát.
I will now deal very shortly with the steps which we took from the commencement in regard to Clause 12.
1.—Clause 12 did not become operative until December, 1922.
2.—Irregular activities were at this time at their worst, and continued so until the spring of 1923.
3.—The preparation of the Government case went on during this period.
4.—We appointed our representative in July of 1923, and called upon the British Government to take the steps necessary on their part for completing the Commission.
On that I may say that the earliest date, in my opinion, upon which it would be possible for us to approach the British Government on Article 12, was after the 1st April. It is well within the knowledge of members of the last Dáil that we had not completely taken over our own Customs at that time and, properly speaking, it would not have been correct to make a case for the Boundary Commission until after that had been done, and if there has been any delay in respect of Article 12, it has been from 1st April to 19th July.
5.—The General Election here took place in August, 1923, and on 22nd September, 1923, the British Government invited us to a Conference to discuss matters arising out of Article 12.
6.—We agreed to attend this Conference "in the hope that a basis might be found for the harmonious co-operation of the whole Irish people for their common weal."
7.—Sir James Craig also accepted the invitation, and it became a question of fixing the date for the Conference.
8.—The Imperial Conference sat during October and November, and the Duke of Devonshire, who was to preside, found it impossible to afford time for the Conference during its sittings.
9.—A tentative arrangement that the Conference should be held on 15th November was prevented by the political crisis in Great Britain with its resulting General Election.
10.—Immediately upon the foundation of the new British Government, the matter was re-opened and the Conference took place on the 1st February.
11.—The Conference adjourned to enable certain proposals to be examined. Our examination was over on 16th February, when we asked for an immediate re-assembly.
12.—Sir James Craig was ill at this stage, and this occasioned further delay. The Conference re-assembled on the 24th April. It failed to come to an agreement. On the 26th April we asked the British Government to take immediate steps to complete the Constitution of the Boundary Commission.
13.—The British Government immediately asked the Northern Government to appoint their representative. The Northern Government refused, and the British Government requested the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to advise them as to the steps which they must take, in the circumstances, to carry out their part of the bargain.
14.—We protested against the delay occasioned by this request, and urged the immediate appointment of the Chairman, so that work might be begun at once on the important preliminary of ascertaining the wishes of the inhabitants.
15.—The Chairman has now been appointed and will arrive in a few weeks.
16.—The delays will, therefore, be seen to have occurred from causes without our control, and we have continually urged for expedition. (See particularly No. 11 in correspondence published.)
The Government has been criticised for entering Conferences in relation to the matters arising out of Article 12. Their reason for accepting the invitations is clearly stated in our despatch of the 8th of October, in which we say that it would indeed be a source of gratification if a discussion could open up a prospect of remedying the unsatisfactory position of Northern Ireland in relation to the rest of the country in a manner compatible with our trust to our people, and fair and reasonable to the parties concerned. We have never regarded a divided Ireland, with the Boundary Commission, as an ideal solution. We desire the unity of Ireland, and we wished to leave no stone unturned to assist in securing that end.
The Conferences did not arrive at agreement, but that they failed cannot be ascribed to any lack of endeavour and good-will on our part.
The Government has been urged to engage in no further Conferences. We do not expect any further Conferences, nor do we see any likelihood that results would accrue from them. So far as we are concerned, our position is that the preliminary work of the Conference shall begin immediately and without waiting for the further steps, if any, which the British Government may be advised to take to fulfil their end of the contract. At the same time, as we have already stated, we are willing at all times to consider, even during the sitting of the Commission, any representations which would offer hope of a genuine settlement on the basis of the reunion of Ireland.
With regard to the fixing of a time limit, no time limit has been fixed by the Treaty, and consequently we must apply the general principle of allowing a reasonable time for the carrying out of the contract. I can give my assurance that the Government will not agree to any unnecessary delay.
I think, sir, I may conclude by reading the letter which I sent on the 4th June in answer to the letter from the British Prime Minister. I mention this letter because it was written before any notice of motion had been given (reads):—
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,—
1. I have given earnest consideration to your letter of yesterday, in which you express the opinion that the interval which will elapse before you receive a report from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council might profitably be employed, with the assistance of the Chairman of the Boundary Commission, in examining the general aspect of the problem with a view to seeing how far an agreed settlement is possible. I regret that I cannot accept this view for the reasons which I gave you on Saturday, namely, that such a course would be bound to afford opportunities for suggestions from one quarter or other of a departure from strict impartiality on his part, which would be a source of serious embarrassment in the judicial task which he is to undertake.
2. The gravest apprehension is felt in Ireland regarding the manner in which Clause 12 of the Treaty has been canvassed. Since February last it would appear as if the terms of the clause, viz., the wishes of the inhabitants, were to be subordinated to whims of persons in positions of authority and power. Further examination and approaches towards possible agreement in these circumstances would, of necessity, imply that the rights guaranteed by this Article are in jeopardy, and I have never had any authority to agree to any abrogation of the rights of the inhabitants as defined in the Article.
3. You mentioned in the course of the discussion on Saturday last that you were in a position to show me your signature appointing the Chairman. I must say that in the opinion of my Government—with which I concur—the appointment should be immediately announced. There is a large amount of preliminary work to be done which could be undertaken forthwith. It is evident that a census of the wishes of the inhabitants must be taken before the Commission can settle down to consider the problems which they will finally have to determine. This is purely a matter of machinery for the ascertaining of facts and statistics, so that they may be available for the Commission to work upon. The collection of this information is, in the opinion of my Government, a duty which should be undertaken at once by the Chairman in conjunction with our representative, and we have addressed an official despatch to Mr. Thomas on these lines.
4. I cannot conclude without urging upon you most earnestly that the delay which has occurred in the setting up of the Commission is causing very grave anxiety and unrest in this country. I realise that you desire to obtain the best legal advice possible as to the steps His Majesty's Government must take to implement Clause 12 and I understand that the reference to a Judicial Committee of which it is proposed to have the Chief Justice of Australia as a member must entail delay, but it will be represented here publicly and otherwise, and will obtain some measure of credence, that the British Government must have known all along that Sir James Craig would decline to appoint his representative, and that the reference to the Judicial Committee is a device to cause further delay, and, if possible, to shelve the whole matter.
5. This is the type of criticism which is most pronounced here, and it is strengthened by the daily references to conferences and solutions in which it is implied that the wishes of the inhabitants are to be ignored. The situation is fast becoming critical, and I shall find it necessary in the very near future to give a day for discussion in the Dáil of the whole problem. I am very much concerned at the prospect of such a discussion and its possible outcome, unless some definite progress towards the operation of the Commission can be shown. Mr. Thomas wrote me on the 10th April that all the necessary steps had been worked out in advance. The position now is that delay follows delay, and if we point to the assurances which we have received we will be countered by an inquiry as to what tangible evidence of progress we can show. The immediate appointment of the Chairman and the starting of the work on the preliminaries would make matters much less difficult and would be regarded by our people as practical evidence that Article 12 is being fully carried out.
(Sgd.) L.T. MacCOSGAIR.
There was an answer to that letter of mine from the British Prime Minister, dated the 6th June, which has been published. My answer sent last night (reads):—
17th June, 1924.
The Right Hon. J. Ramsay
10, Downing Street,
Dear Mr. Prime Minister.
1. A debate upon the Boundary Question, which began on Friday, is being resumed on Wednesday next, and I shall take the opportunity on that day to lay before the Dáil the text of the later correspondence between us on this subject.
2. There are a few points arising out of your letter of the 6th instant which perhaps call for some observations from me. The most important is your view that there is scarcely any difference in principle between our proposal that the Chairman and Dr. Eoin MacNeill should proceed with the preliminary work of ascertaining the wishes of the inhabitants, and your suggestion that the Chairman, with Dr. MacNeill and a representative from Sir James Craig, should join in preliminary studies with a view to an agreed settlement being arrived at.
3. The major difference is that our proposal involves merely a question of setting up the necessary machinery for ascertaining facts and raises no point of policy. The other proposal postulates explorations for agreement which the principals have already failed, after repeated Conferences, to reach. If agreement can be reached, it must be reached, not upon the basis of my views, or of Sir James Craig's views, but upon the basis laid down in Article 12 of respect for the wishes of the inhabitants of the area affected and for the economic and geographical conditions.
4. The possibility of agreement depends, therefore, upon considerations which have to be ascertained, and our proposal is that the work of ascertaining these considerations should be embarked upon at once. This work Dr. MacNeill is ready to co-operate in at a moment's notice.
5. As far as we are concerned, we will cordially co-operate in any action which will make for friendship between ourselves in these islands, but we are satisfied that any departure from the elementary democratic principle enshrined in Article 12 would not tend in that direction. We feel that it is essential for the maintenance of harmony between nations that the wishes of the inhabitants should be a primary consideration in any system of Government, and we are prepared to translate this view into practice to secure not alone a spirit of brotherhood amongst ourselves, but, so far as it can be accomplished, amongst the whole human race.
6. This is the spirit in which I addressed the Assembly of the League of Nations last September.
7. I cannot conclude without assuring you that I appreciate fully His Majesty's Government's desire to have the highest available opinion as to their course of procedure, under their Statutes, for giving effect to Treaty obligations entered into by them, and I also appreciate that the delay which is caused thereby may be to a certain extent inevitable. At the same time, I would urge upon His Majesty's Government that it is in the interests of all parties concerned that existing sources of possible irritation be removed at once, and accordingly that every effort should be made to have all outstanding matters in regard to the setting up of the Boundary Commission composed at the earliest possible moment.
(Signed) L.T. MacCOSGAIR.
A Chinn Chomhairle, I ask for your guidance on the matter of procedure. The President has traversed the whole ground covered by both the amendment and the motion; and while I am prepared to follow his example, I do not know if it would be exactly the best procedure to adopt. Is the immediate discussion to be confined to the amendment?
The discussion upon the amendment, I think, could embrace the question of the Boundary Commission as well as the question of the Council of Ireland. But it would be advisable that as far as possible Deputies should express themselves upon the amendment and upon the motion in only one speech.
The discussion of both matters? This depends upon whether or not the President has concluded his observations on the original motion, or concluded his arguments. If he has, and if I was allowed to deal with both, I could indicate my attitude towards the amendment and also towards the motion.
I have concluded, sir.
I should also wish to answer some of the observations of the President.
And make a speech in reply as proposer of the motion, too?
I do not know. I am in somewhat of a quandary as to how to proceed. The matter has been somewhat complicated by the course adopted by the President.
There is no complication. Article 12 of the Treaty deals with the Boundary Commission, and has a reference to the Council of Ireland. I think Deputy Milroy, in putting down his motion, did not advert to the Council of Ireland, but merely to the Boundary Commission. Deputy Johnson, in his amendment, stresses the Council of Ireland. The same questions arise upon the amendment and upon the motion, and the simplest procedure to adopt would be that Deputies should make one speech, choosing whether they will make it on the amendment or on the motion. That, however, is not a ruling, but rather a suggestion.
I will try to comply with what is the necessity of the moment.
The debate has been confined to the President and the mover and seconder of the motion, and the mover of the amendment. And if the whole time is to be taken by people who put down motions and amendments, and if private members are struck out altogether, the next time there is a motion there will be a flock of amendments which would be the only chance of getting heard.
It would be better that Deputy Milroy should wait to see if any other Deputy desires to speak.
I should like to give way to any Deputy who wishes to speak.
I should just like to say, without dealing at any length with the terms of the original motion, that I quite realise the difficulty of being able to encompass both the motion and the amendment in one speech. But I think it is fair that I should indicate exactly my attitude with regard to the original motion before devoting the greater part of the few comments I wish to make to the amendment to it. I agree with the substance of the motion made by Deputy Milroy, with this one exception—that seeing that he has made complaint and that others have made complaint for a long time that this Boundary Commission, in spite of all its complexities and difficulties, seems to have been unnecessarily delayed, I cannot quite follow his reasoning in urging that the Executive Council should take no further action, but should withdraw and state a definite date. With that part of his motion I am not in agreement. Generally in so far as his motion urges that the work on the Boundary Commission ought to be hastened with a view to getting some conclusion at the earliest possible moment—in so far as that is his intention, so far am I in agreement with the substance and meaning and purport of his motion.
But I wish to confine what I have to say mainly to Deputy Johnson's amendment. I think Deputy Johnson has served a very valuable purpose in drawing attention to a matter that has for a long time passed away completely from the important place in the entire question in which it was undoubtedly held by the chief negotiators of the Treaty—that is, the right of the Free State, when constituted, to insist upon the creation of the Council of Ireland with such powers as are attached to that Council, and particularly that that Council may be at once some link between the two Governments, and assemble, and more than assemble, an actual working proof of that which everybody in Ireland—in the Free State certainly—desires far more than a change in the boundary or a rectification of the boundary, and that is the achievement of Irish unity. It is unnecessary for me to recapitulate the argument entered into by Deputy Johnson. He pointed out, and I just now return to it for the sake of clarity, that the 1920 Act did have that one feature which was judged by the negotiators of the Treaty to be worth preservation.
That was, that there was an administration representing the unity of this country, and it is well known to the President and to many Deputies in this House that the Chairman of the Irish Delegation attached very considerable importance to the carrying over of the functions of the Council of Ireland from the 1920 Act into Articles 12 and 13 of the Treaty. There were two kinds of matters with which the Council of Ireland was, under the original Act, empowered to deal. The first concerned three specified functions. They were: Railways, Fisheries and the Administration of the Diseases of Animals Acts. In addition to that, there were certain other powers which were reserved from the two Parliaments created under that, which are referred to throughout that Act as reserved powers. Among them is one to which I desire at the present moment to draw particular attention, because I think it may prove to be a matter of some importance in the immediate future, and I believe as a negotiating instrument it should be made to be a matter of supreme importance, that is, that the Council of Ireland should be utilised in regard to the completion of land purchase. I will return to that in a moment. I only say here and now that Article 12 of the Treaty definitely said that the Council of Ireland, in so far as it affected the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland, was to remain, and those who read the debates in the English Parliament upon the Treaty will know that the representatives of Northern Ireland fastened chiefly upon that one question in centering their criticisms upon the Treaty. I recall that now because I think it is a matter of some importance the Boundary Commission has achieved a front position which it did not hold at the very outset, because the representatives in the British Parliament from the Six Counties had their chief criticisms to centre upon the Council of Ireland. Why? For the reason indicated by Deputy Johnson, because the Treaty gave absolute full powers to the Free State as it should be constituted, and as it was subsequently constituted from the Twenty-six Counties, powers that were declared by our Constitution to be such as to make us nationally and legislatively co-equal with England. Consequently, when the Council so appointed is carried over into the Treaty, the Council of Ireland, representative alike of the Free State and of Northern Ireland, should have for its function only those matters which were reserved to that Council and under the 1920 Act, but only within the Six Counties.
Captain Craig, brother of the Northern Premier, drew attention to that fact in the debate. He said that it was a provision that they objected to most strenuously against any other provision, for it meant that the Free State would have a voice in the Government of the Six Counties in respect of these particular matters, co-equal with them, whereas they would have no voice in the administration or legislation of the Twenty-six Counties. Nevertheless, that was the fact. But that Council, as carried over under Article 12 of the Treaty—I ask the President to note this, because of a certain sentence that he used in his speech here to-day—his words were: Article 12 of the Treaty did not operate until December, 1922, and that is correct. That is a statement of fact. It cannot be questioned. But if the Article did not operate until December 6th, 1922, how then came it about that the Provisional Government varied an Article which had not already come into operation by which they were not endowed, for he has told us that in November the variation of the Council of Ireland is enforced ——
Clause 73 of the Act of 1920 will give you that answer.
Clause 73 deals with the commencement of the operation of this Act and its appointed day.
Who made the agreement?
"Provided that the Appointed Day as respects the transfer of any service may, at the joint request of the Governments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland, be fixed at a date later than seven months after the said Tuesday, and that the Appointed Day as respects the provisions relating to the representation of Ireland in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom shall be a day not earlier than the day on which the Parliament of the United Kingdom is next dissolved after the passing of this Act." I want to do every justice to the President. I want to be perfectly fair in my argument. He cannot have it both ways.
Neither can you.
He cannot say he acted under the powers of the Treaty and still claim that the Provisional Government up to that moment was the Government of Southern Ireland under the 1920 Act. There are many reasons why he cannot say that. The chief one is that he had not fulfilled, as Deputy Johnson pointed out, the various qualifications that were required of the Government under the 1920 Act, qualifications in respect of oaths that I do not believe the President or any member of the Provisional Government took. Anyway, after the adoption of the Treaty, a certain variation has been made and the terms of that variation are set out in the Act to which the President has referred, the Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Act of 1922. Several references have been made to paragraph 3 of the Second Schedule, but the paragraph itself has not been quoted, and I want to quote it in drawing special attention to the words used by Mr. Ormsby Gore, Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. He said that this Clause came before the British Parliament as an agreed clause. The President demurs to the further words of Mr. Ormsby Gore, that they implied a variation of the Treaty. I accept that demurring frankly. I think his demur is right, because the words do not carry the construction of a variation of the Treaty when the clause is examined. But there was no demur to the words used by Mr. Ormsby Gore when he said that these two sections of the paragraph came before the British Parliament as an agreed clause. I will read this agreed clause.
The constitution of the Council of Ireland shall, if identical Acts for the purpose are passed by the Parliament of the Irish Free State and the Parliament of Northern Ireland, be altered in accordance with those Acts.
There are certain other words to which I wish to draw particular attention. I pause at this moment to say there is nothing here about five years. It then goes on to say: "and it is hereby declared that the passing of such Acts is within the powers of the said Parliaments." That was after the adoption of our Constitution. The British Parliament in what it has stated there to be an agreed clause, states that certain powers, certain matters, are within the power of the Free State Legislature. The Free State Legislature is constituted under our Constitution to be coequal with that Parliament, and we know it needs no passing of Acts there to empower this Oireachtas to do any such thing as it purports here to do. But I urge upon the President that he ought to make it clear whether these words—and I touch upon them now merely in parenthesis—are correctly stated by Mr. Ormsby Gore to be part of an agreed clause—that a power is conferred upon this Parliament in contradistinction to the rights stated in the Constitution from the Acts of any other Legislature, but from the Acts of the Constitutional Assembly alone. There is another matter in this connection. We have heard a great deal of the postponement of the powers of the Council of Ireland for five years. The Attorney-General stated in the debate to which reference has been made: "This postponement has been for five years." I will quote the whole of his reference. He says further: "So far as the Six Counties are concerned the setting up of the Council of Ireland was postponed for five years——"
May I interrupt for a moment. The Deputy read out something which I did not catch. Did he read out what Mr. Ormsby Gore stated, or what is in the Act?
I read both. I read that Mr. Ormsby Gore stated this, that this came before the British Parliament as an agreed clause, and I read the agreed clause.
I am not concerned with what a member says in another place. I am concerned with what there is in Statutes. Is it in the Statute?
The Statute states:—"It is hereby declared that the passing of such Acts is within the powers of the said Parliaments."
Give me the reference.
Paragraph 3, Sub-section 1, of the First Schedule of the Irish Free State Consequential Provisions Act.
As I have it, it reads:—Clause 3, Sub-section 1: "The constitution of the Council of Ireland shall, if identical Acts for the purpose are passed by the Parliament of Irish Free State and the Parliament of Northern Ireland be altered in accordance with those Acts."
But I have this here——
The Deputy is at sea in the whole thing. He is just as much in this business as we are, and so is Deputy Johnson, and the Deputy is exculpating himself before Deputy Connor Hogan and Deputy McGilligan, who were not in the Parliament at the time.
I have before me the documents that were sent over to me from the English Stationery Office, and it is entitled, "The Irish Free State Consequential Provisions Bill."
Bill? We are dealing with an Act. You are behind the times again. You have drawn my attention to the matter. I have noted it, and I have given you information. What more do you want?
I thought this was the Act that had been sent to me.
You should not be thinking of what is wrong.
Are those words in the present Act?
I have read the Act as it is.
Then I withdraw completely.
I thank you.
I withdraw completely. I sent for this Act and I was sent a Bill, and I have quoted from it, presuming that this was the text of the Act.
I am sorry for that error. The point I am now making——
I hope it is a better one than the last.
It is a better one than the last. I was quoting from the Attorney-General's words: "So far as the Six Counties were concerned, the setting up of the Council of Ireland was postponed for five years, and the jurisdiction was to be exercised by the British Government. That has been given effect to in an Act passed by the British Parliament at the same time that it gave statutory recognition to the Constitution that we had passed here. It is an Act called the Irish Free State Consequential Provisions Act." I think the Act in my possession now——
As the Deputy has the Act in his possession, will he be good enough to read to the Dáil Section 3 of Schedule 1 to that Act? It will save a lot of time.
The words I have quoted from the Attorney-General are that so far as the Six Counties were concerned the setting up of the Council of Ireland was postponed for five years, and the jurisdiction was to be exercised by the British Government. He added that that had been given effect to in an Act which, he goes on to say, was passed by the British Government. Here are the actual words that Deputy Magennis requires, and I ask if the matter bears the construction given to it by the Attorney-General at the time:—"The appointed day for the transfer in relation to Northern Ireland of the powers which by the principal Act are made powers of the Council of Ireland shall be such day as may hereafter be fixed by Order in Council, not being earlier than the day on which such identical Acts as aforesaid come into operation or the expiration of a period of five years from the passing of this Act, whichever may first happen. Provided the appointed day for the purposes of Section 10 of the principal Act." It then proceeds to deal with certain other matters.
The section I have read makes it perfectly clear that there was a postponement, but instead of that postponement being for five years, the postponement is made for five years or for such lesser period as may be decided on between the two Parliaments. The section does not state that the powers of the Council of Ireland shall in the meantime be exercised by the British Legislature. I ask if the British Legislature is endowed with the rights and with the powers reserved from the Northern Parliament under the 1920 Act? What is there to stop the constitution of the Council of Ireland at an earlier date by the two parties that now exercise their respective rights under it, the two parties being the Free State Parliament and the British Parliament, exercising its authority over its subordinate Parliament?
I do think this is a matter that ought to be pressed, and pressed with equal strength, with the Boundary Commission. The Boundary Commission has been delayed, and whatever settlement be made under it, it will merely make certain adjustments of territory. In the meantime, during the past twelve months, what has been happening in Ireland has been very marked. I am not weakening or suggesting there should be any departure from the full pressure of all the rights of the Free State, but the Commission of itself is not all. It is only the creation of partition, and it is the hope of every person that partition may finally be overcome. Therefore, I think Deputy Johnson has done a service in drawing attention to a matter that is equally important with the Boundary Commission, and, together with it, may help towards the solution of this problem. That is, while steps be taken to correct the boundary in accordance with the wishes of its inhabitants, as stated to be the result to be attained under Article 12, at the same time the other part of Article 12 should also be given effect to, and that is that the Council of Ireland should be created, that Council of Ireland exercising its functions at the earliest possible moment, in order that it might be a symbol and a prospect of Irish unity, which is, after all, the main matter of importance before this nation.
I think Deputy Johnson has done a service in drawing attention to what has been very largely neglected in the past. Now that the Boundary Commission is attracting a big degree of attention, I think that this matter should be stressed in the future.
Mr. MILROY: rose.
Does Deputy Milroy mean to make a speech on the amendment, and also to make the speech he is entitled to make as proposer of the motion as well, when the main question is being disposed of?
I was going to say that it would be hardly possible to conclude this discussion at 8.30 to-night, and I would suggest that the adjournment be moved now.
Let us settle the amendment now and get something out of the way.
It is quite obvious that when I speak and indicate my attitude towards the amendment, it must call for some comment from the mover of the amendment. When I have finished with the amendment and finished with the President, I am afraid there will be very little time for those who desire to reply.
Deputy Milroy appears to be suggesting that we proceed in a circle. The Deputy's speech, he says, will draw forth comment from the mover of the amendment, and this comment will draw forth counter-comment from Deputy Milroy, so that Deputy Milroy and Deputy Johnson will have a field-day, and perhaps a night, on this question. I think Deputy Milroy is mistaken. Deputy Johnson cannot speak again upon the amendment. If Deputy Milroy speaks on the amendment and goes into his own motion, it would hardly be fair for him to insist on his right to speak when the discussion on the main question is being wound up and the motion is being put either as it was proposed or as it may be amended.
I am very much at sea as to what exactly my position is, but I am prepared for an all-night sitting, if necessary.
I wish to say, first of all, that I regret very much one thing the President said in his statement. He said this matter had assumed a tincture of party politics for the first time. While I regret he made that observation, still it gives me a little satisfaction, because it enables me to repudiate similar statements that were made outside. I have not brought this question up from any partisan point of view. I challenge the President or any other critic to analyse every word I said in my speech proposing the motion, and I defy him to find one single word or sentence that departs from the strictly national outlook in regard to this question. It has been said that I moved this motion as an electioneering dodge. It has been said by those who seemingly desire to bring this question down to the low level of the partisan squabbles that disfigured the public life of this country recently——
I certainly did not say that.
It was not said in the Dáil.
What was said here was a faint echo of it. At any rate it is my attitude that Party considerations should not enter into this matter and that we should face England and the British Government and the spokesmen of England with united front, to assert that not one iota of the rights obtained by this nation under the Treaty will be filched from us. The amendment of Deputy Johnson I decline to accept, not because I agree with the President's view, not because I am convinced that the issue he (Deputy Johnson) raises is a false one, but because I consider it an issue different from the one which I have raised, which cuts across the issue I have raised and somewhat confuses the idea and obscures the meaning and the vital importance of the issue I have raised. The issue Deputy Johnson has raised may be a more important one, as he contends, than the one I have raised. But it is not the same one and, therefore, I cannot see my way to accept it. But there are one or two comments I would like to make on that amendment, because there is no shadow of doubt as to its importance or as to the importance of the issue it raises. We are told that there was a certain agreement between the Provisional Government, the Northern Parliament and the British Government with regard to the Council of Ireland. I want to know the date that that agreement was arrived at and the precise nature of the agreement. I want to know where is the authentic document or documents embodying that agreement. I am not a lawyer. I do not know much about the tricks of that particular craft, but I have the outlook of the ordinary plain man who considers that agreements between Governments must have legislative expression. The only indication of such expression we have been informed of is the British "Irish Free State Consequential (Provisions) Act." The President has asserted a doctrine which to my mind is very, very faulty. He seems to indicate that publicity of that Act is equivalent to law in this country. Whether that Act is binding on the British or not does not concern us. What does concern us is whether it is binding on the Saorstát. Before provisions such as are embodied in that Act are binding and law in this country, I think they must get expression in an enactment of the Oireachtas. The President has said that he cares very little for what is said in another place. Still, what is said in that other place, if it bears on this matter, is not to be simply dismissed with a dignified gesture of contempt. The statement referred to was made by the Minister who was explaining and interpreting to that House the provisions of this measure, which, it is implied, is binding upon this country because it received publicity in the columns of Irish journals. Whatever weight be attached to it, I find a definite conflict of statement between that Minister and the late Attorney-General. He said, bearing upon this matter:—
"It only needed the Northern Government to assent to the powers of the Council of Ireland being exercised by the British Government, and in so far as joint action would be taken in reference to a railway affecting both parts of the country, it would be a matter for agreement between the British Government and our own Government."
The words he used were "between the British Government and our own Government." The Minister in the British House, explaining this particular agreement, said:—
"The three parties, as it were, have agreed to this solution of the problem of the Council of Ireland, namely: that it should be left without any further intervention from this Parliament to the Parliaments of Northern and Southern Ireland to come to a fresh agreement, other than was originally proposed, by the passing of identical Acts."
I presume we must take the pronouncement of our own Law Officer as the definite and authentic judgment on this matter. But, if that be true, then the Minister in the British House misled those who listened to him.
Examine the subject and see whether it is right or not. The Deputy should examine the subject and see what the point in dispute is. The ex-Attorney-General made the case that this was simply interpreting, or giving a date for the interpretation of the other Act. If there be a variation, let the Deputy tell us where it is.
I was not commenting upon the question of the variation of the Treaty, though I might do so, were it not that time presses. I was simply drawing attention to a very important consideration, that in regard to this particular Act or agreement one statement is made in this House and a vitally different one in the British House. Therefore, I say that this amendment raises a very important issue, but a different one from the one in my motion, and I must decline to accept it. I have no desire to create an embarrassing situation for the Executive of this State, and it was not for the purpose of doing any thing that would add one iota to the already heavy burden on their shoulders that I raised this matter. If I announce now that I do not propose to press this to a division, I do not want that attitude to be misunderstood. The primary motive animating me in raising this motion is to make it perfectly clear where we stand and to make perfectly definite what will be the inevitable consequences of the nonobservance by Great Britain of the part of the Treaty we have been discussing.
I spent my week-end within the Six Counties and I met a good many people there—people who are living under the conditions that have arisen out of the abnormal circumstances that have recently arisen there. Certainly, none of them expressed in the slightest degree that they read into what I have said anything in the nature of a partisan attitude. But there was a general and emphatic approval of my attitude in this matter. As the lives and future of these people will be vitally affected by what transpired I contend that their attitude on the present situation and on the declarations made in reference to this matter is not something to be ignored or derided. The position there at the moment so far as the Nationalist and Catholic majority is concerned, is that of hopeless impotence. They have been driven out of every sphere of political and administrative life. They feel their impotence and their inability to extricate themselves, and they look to this Assembly to see that they are not abandoned.
We have heard from those opposed to us in this matter in the North-East the argument that the Treaty does not over-ride the Act of 1920. They seem to lose sight of the fact that the Act of 1920 was simply a creature of the British Parliament and that its creator could, if necessary, unmake it at any time, whereas the Treaty is a solemn international contract between two States, negotiating and arriving at decisions as equals. This Act of 1920 has perpetrated a manifest, serious and vital injury upon a great number of the citizens of the Six Counties and it does not possess any attribute of immortality and can be repealed just as easily and as equitably as any other oppressive statute. The proposals embodied in the Act of 1920 were never intended as a solution of the problems confronting those concerned at the time, but were intended merely as an expedient by which to thwart the national aspirations of the people. Since it has become an Act the policy has been pursued, persistently, ingeniously and malignantly, of reducing the Catholics and Nationalists of that part of Ireland to the state of helots.
This Article in the Treaty, which we are considering, provides the means by which those people to whom I refer can be rescued from that position. The Treaty guarantees certain rights to those people. The question that arises, and which I want to emphasise as insistently as I can, is this: Are these guarantees going to be cancelled by the inaction or evasions of the British? Certainly the indications of attitude or outlook on the part of the British, all during the period when this matter has been under discussion, gives even the most patient person, I think, the impression that they desire either to cancel these guarantees or to allow them to become a dead letter. These indications of their attitude are, I think, ample justification for the suspicion in our minds that the British statesmen do desire to evade their commitments under Article 12 and, I think, make it imperative that we should make it clear beyond all shadow of doubt that such an attitude and such a policy will receive no countenance from us; that England must honour her bond in this matter or else the Treaty goes smash, and it will be England and England's statesmen who will have broken the Treaty.
If that eventuality comes, this State will stand before the world as a State that has honoured its bond at a terrible cost, and England will stand disgraced in the eyes of the world as a nation that has dishonoured its bond. It is in order to emphasise that and to make it clear that that is the view that will be taken in such an eventuality, that I have put down this motion. It may be that it has been sufficiently indicated, at least I hope so. I recognise the gravity of all I am saying, and I recognise the gravity of this issue. I do not wish anyone here, or anyone outside of this Assembly, to imagine for a moment that any motives of expediency or political interest animated me in tabling this motion. It was nothing less than national interest that animated me in putting down the motion. I hope I have disabused the mind of the President that any feelings such as those he seems to have assumed in the course of his statement, were in my mind. There were no feelings of the kind in my mind at all.
I beg to move the adjournment of the debate on the amendment until Friday.