As far as the repayment by the State of that money is concerned, it is an act of the Oireachtas. The authority of the Oireachtas is derived from the people of the country and the action of the Government in this matter has not been questioned in any part of the country that I have been in. In any case, it is an Act of the Parliament of this State. It was an act of grace on the part of the British Government to agree to pay their portion. It was not in the Treaty which was made on the 6th December, 1921. It was a subsequent agreement. In so far as the agreement is concerned, it was slightly extended on a request from us in respect of its terms of reference. In that particular extension, cases were brought in which would otherwise have been excluded. In our compensation for damage to property we started on 11th July, 1921, as the date from which we were liable. It will be quite apparent to anybody that it was better to have all pre-truce cases dealt with by one tribunal. As far as the work of that tribunal is concerned, it decided the amount and it apportioned the liability, whether the liability was a British Government liability or a liability of ours. I think we made it clear on one or two occasions that the British Government would not hear of any such thing as paying an indemnity to leave the country. That, however, is past history now.
As far as this agreement is concerned, terms must be entered into as to the manner in which the money is to be paid. It is a question of judgment as to whether this is or is not a good method of paying it. To a person utterly uneducated in methods of finance it would appear to be a much better thing to provide £5,000,000 and clear the debt. I believe that it could be cleared for less than £5,000,000—for a considerable amount less than £5,000,000—for cash. But I am satisfied that in the finances of this State, this is a much better bargain. The question of credit comes in here in two ways. It comes in, firstly, in acting up to the agreement we entered into in December last. Any evasion of that would not be to our credit. It would be damaging to our credit to attempt any evasion of it now, since we made that agreement in December and gave it the sanction of law. The second way in which credit enters into the question is as regards what an additional sum of £5,000,000—or between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000—would mean to our national resources. If Deputy Connor Hogan were to ask me what we could clear this debt off for, I believe I could reply that we could clear it off for £4,000,000 in cash. But I am satisfied that it would not be good business to ask for a National Loan of £4,000,000 because it would take away that amount from the balance that we have available for operating in business and it would leave us liable for, perhaps, a heavier burden than this one. My opinion is that another agreement will be necessary if this one be not acceptable. It is no use saying that sixteen payments of £250,000 each clear off £4,000,000. There is a larger sum than £4,000,000 to be dealt with. There is a sum of £5,000,000 involved and you cannot separate the two things—money paid and obligations incurred.
The position is not on a parity with that of France and Italy. In the case of France and Italy there was a worldwide war to be considered. It was in the interests of any rich combatant to induce the other nations to continue the struggle, and a bigger inducement than actual military support was necessary to do that. Big financial accommodation was necessary, and if it were not forthcoming it might have meant an absolute defeat for one side. This particular transaction occurred when peace was made between Great Britain and Ireland. These sums which they paid were paid in cash within the last two or three years. That is not on a parity with something that happened eight or nine years ago. If this proposal be negatived, then other negotiations will have to take place in order to arrive at what is written in black and white in the Treaty (Confirmation of Amending Agreement) Act, 1925. The sum to be paid must be paid by agreement between the two Governments. This agreement we have made. We believe that it is a good agreement. We believe it is a sound financial proposition for this State. Altering a figure here and there is not going to relieve the burden of this arrangement by a single iota. Accordingly, I oppose the amendment.