Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Friday, 20 May 1927

Vol. 19 No. 25


I understand that the Seanad has agreed to the Resolution which we sent up to them from the Dáil this evening, and that, therefore, all the necessary formalities in connection with the dissolution are now complete.

I do not propose to impose unduly on the time of the House at this final stage, but in view of the historical circumstances of our times, it is but just and right that I should briefly review the work of this, the fourth Dáil. This is the concluding stage of the first Dáil which met free from external or internal aggression. It has had to discharge much more onerous and much more far-reaching business than fell to any of its predecessors. During its four years' life all the compensation claims of the pre-truce period have been dealt with, and in the case of post-truce claims there remain some 400 cases to be disposed of out of nearly 20,000 cases.

We have passed through the Oireachtas in the four years of the fourth Dáil 183 Public and 9 Private Acts, and at the conclusion of its existence two Public Bills of major importance have not been finally completed in the Dáil. Some of the measures absorb a large amount of parliamentary time by reason of their nature—such as Appropriation Acts—which follow an examination of the estimates of expenditure over the whole field of public service. In addition to completing the Currency Bill and the Dentists Bill, the main Appropriation Bill for the year 1927-28 will fall for consideration by the new Dáil on its assembly. It is fair to say that whatever may be the wish of the electorate, these three Bills, or variations of them, must be dealt with by the new Executive Council.

We finish at this Session much indebted to the members of the Dáil. We feel a pardonable pride in membership of the fourth Dáil, by reason— apart from its historical significance— of its close attention to business, of the very many and generous efforts to improve the Bills introduced; of the courtesy which has been its distinguishing characteristic, and of the minute and careful examination of the Estimates. The work has been for the members of the Dáil exacting, and it would be natural that the strain should have its effect. During that long and eventful period the Oireachtas has laid the foundation of the State—it has made a big contribution to the history of its period in the work it has done.

We have lived in the fourth Dáil from a time fraught with the consciousness of danger to the period in which we have enjoyed the consciousness of peace. The institutions which the Oireachtas has established have contributed towards easing that difficult situation. The Dáil has done its work well. It owes much to the ability, forbearance, tact and goodwill of you, A Chinn Comhairle. The Dáil has made an advance in parliamentary integrity when it decided that the holder of the office of Ceann Comhairle should be removed from the sphere of political controversy. That decision implies a remarkable appreciation of the manner in which you, sir, have discharged the duties of your high office; it is an expression of our confidence in your wisdom and judgment. Indeed, I might say that in the minds of most of us the term Ceann Comhairle and Deputy Micheál O hAodha are synonymous.

I would like to join in my appreciation of the work of the Dáil, and particularly of your own work, A Chinn Comhairle, in the Chair, in charge of the Dáil, and in matters of procedure, in directing the Dáil. I am very confident in the statement that whatever may be said to the credit of the Dáil could only be said by the fact that you have occupied the chair. I think that this is, perhaps, an occasion when we might review, very shortly, the position that we occupy and have occupied. The President has given certain figures as to the amount of work done. We are a body of men and women—with the assistance of the Seanad—imposing many millions of taxation on the people, and we have spent it. For good or ill it is spent. The important feature, I think, that might well be emphasised is that a body of elected persons have been able to meet, have been able to discuss and criticise legislative proposals, and when passed with all their defects, however imperfect, however wrong they may have been in the eyes of the Opposition, those proposals have become law; the fiat goes forth and must be obeyed.

The fact that we are a legislature, and that the will of the people, as expressed by that legislature, becomes effective in the country is a very important fact. It throws upon those of us who are in positions of responsibility the obligation of realising how great a privilege we have enjoyed to act in this Chamber as the supreme authority in the nation. Perhaps in fifty years the people who are writing histories will look back upon this period and say, "What a great time it was to have lived in." We may frequently feel regretful, but, as sometimes we read histories and thrill at the events that took place in the days that are past, people in the future will say that the present time was a great time to have lived in. The truth is that we are living in a history-making period— one might say at the beginning of a new epoch. It is of the most tremendous significance that the law and the government of the people of the country are being fashioned by an elected assembly whose will, once given expression to in statute, is made effective by the courts, and, when necessary, by the powers of the State. That is a great thing to think of, and once we do think of it we must realise the immense privilege that has been accorded us to take part in this work.

I think we all have to pay special tribute to the work that has been done for the Dáil, and even for the individual member of the Dáil, by the staff of the Dáil. Those of us who have been in more intimate contact with the staff than others by reason of committee work—who have had an opportunity of looking in at the machine and seeing how it works—are able to appreciate the great amount of silent, valuable work that has been done by the staff of the Oireachtas. I think it is desirable that we of this Parliament —the first effective Parliament, I think —should make record of our appreciation of that work.

We have also made friends here. Some of us will not meet again in the Chamber for a year or two years, but we may meet in other places. We may have had our friendships and our quarrels, but I think it may be said quite freely and fairly that there has been general good feeling in the House. I think the character of the House is such that we can all look back on the four years as a period of friendliness and fellowship—acute differences, frequently violent opposition, but, withal, a feeling of camaraderie and goodwill. There is not much more to say, except that we will all do our best for our own sides and we will look forward with interest, and, perhaps, pleasure, to the new faces that will be seen on those benches in a month's time.

I wish to endorse, and to express my appreciation of, the remarks of the President and Deputy Johnson as to the work that has been done by this Dáil. I express that appreciation on behalf of my Party and on my own behalf. As to the remarks made about you, A Chinn Comhairle, we, on these benches, heartily re-echo them. To do otherwise would be difficult. Your conduct in the Chair for the past four years was excellence itself. It was, I am sure, your advice and guidance which engendered the good spirit and good fellowship that obtained outside this Chamber, no matter how warm the debates were inside. I assure you we all appreciate your conduct in the Chair. On behalf of my Party and on my own behalf, I endorse the remarks made by the President and by Deputy Johnson.

On behalf of the Independents—a small Party of this House which contributes more than its fair share to the debates—I want to join in thanking the President for what he has said and in thanking you, A Chinn Comhairle. The President said that we had laid the foundations of the State in this Dáil. I think we have done more. We have put up the scaffolding and we have designed the architectural plan on which the edifice is to be built. Whatever builders may come after us will find themselves provided with established precedents and established traditions which were created in this Dáil. They were created by co-operation. We came together, most of us strangers, inclined, perhaps, to that most persistent of our national maladies—suspicion. I remember the time when the Opposition used to suspect the Government and used to watch very carefully to see that every member of the Government played the game. In the last two years we have not had occasion to do that. We have learned to know each other, we have learned to respect each other, and, while holding hard to our own peculiar opinions, we have learned to be friends. That friendship will not die with the Dáil.

We stand by the side of the tomb of the fourth Dáil and I, for one, cannot speak without emotion at the grave of an assembly where I have passed the four happiest years of my life. But I do think that the feelings of mutual respect which were born here will not die but will be carried into our public life throughout the country, for the good of the country. I feel, A Chinn Comhairle, that it is almost impertinent to join in any tribute to you. I should like to emphasise what Deputy Johnson has said of the debt we owe to the staff of the Dáil, and I should like to pay my peculiar tribute of gratitude and sympathy to those who are called upon to report our debates.

I should not like this occasion to pass without associating myself with the statements that have been made. With the whole of the President's statement I am not quite in agreement, because I think a lot of legislation was introduced which was not really necessary. I have to say, however, in common with the other Deputies who have spoken, that I, as a plain member of the Dáil, have received the utmost courtesy both from the supporters of the Government and from the different Parties in the House. In particular, I have received the greatest consideration from you, A Chinn Comhairle, and from the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. As a private member who has endeavoured to do one man's part, I must say that I received the same attention on all sides as if I had the support of a Party. I sincerely hope that the great majority of the people of Ireland will appreciate the importance of men endeavouring, as legislators, to better the position of the people of this country. I do not think that this is an opportune time for making a political speech, but it is my view, and the view of the people as a whole, that unity must be brought about and that Irishmen must work hand in hand for the betterment of their country and not devote their time to disputes about words. I return my sincere thanks to you, A Chinn Comhairle, to the members of the different Parties, and particularly to the staff of the Oireachtas, who have treated me with the utmost courtesy. On any occasion on which I required their assistance they were always most willing to facilitate me.

We are concluding the proceedings of the fourth Dáil and some of the remarks I had hoped to make have been anticipated, particularly by Deputy Johnson, I think it is right to say that this is a special occasion. In time an occasion such as this will become an ordinary occasion, an occasion perhaps for trite sayings and for conventional courtesies; but we here and now find ourselves in a different position. We have been privileged to take part in the first National Assembly, endowed with full powers, functioning in this country, deriving its power from the people and free to exercise that power, and exercising that power freely, over a full parliamentary period. In that way the occasion is a special one, and for that reason there has rested upon the members of this Dáil in particular a great responsibility, a greater responsibility than will rest upon members of other Houses in future. We have been in the position that we had to establish precedents, to make conventions, to create an atmosphere which we hope will be useful in the future. That responsibility was realised by members and the restrictions placed upon members by that responsibility were loyally accepted.

In forming an estimate of an Assembly such as this we must first get a correct standard, and the correct standard is a parliamentary standard. If we want to judge our proceedings here we must judge them by the proceedings in parliaments generally. It is sometimes forgotten that one of the main purposes of a parliament is to ensure the fullest-freedom of debate. We have endeavoured to carry out that purpose here, and I think we have succeeded. I do not need to recall to Deputies instances which will go to prove that the limits of what is known as parliamentary language are very wide indeed. We have had here vigorous discussions; we have had bitter denunciations; we have also had heated interchanges; but these things, in my judgment, are simply indications of a healthy life, and in spite of them we have had, as has been said already, between the members of a House of different Parties and divergent views extraordinarily good personal relationships. I have noted one thing which is, I think, quite remarkable, and that is that Deputies representing the same constituency but of different Parties appear to be almost always in the utmost harmony. I have never had to preside over any debate in which members from the same constituency endeavoured to score one off the other. That of itself is, I think, a great tribute to members of the Dáil.

A tribute has been paid to the staff of the Dáil. I think on this particular occasion, at any rate, that was a proper thing, and I was very glad to hear it from Deputy Johnson and other Deputies. Nobody appreciates as much as the Chair the assistance which has been rendered in the working of the Dáil, both before and during meetings, by the staff, who, when we began here, had no experience whatever of parliamentary work. On their behalf I desire to express thanks for the high compliments which have been paid to them.

Very gracious and very pleasing things have been said about the Chair. On behalf of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, on my own behalf, and on behalf of the other Deputies who from time to time have occupied the Chair, I desire to thank Deputies for these expressions. While, however, the Chair and while individuals in the Dáil may help to give a particular character to a House such as this, in the end the character of the House is determined by all its members; it is determined not only by Ministers and by leaders of parties, but also by back benchers who speak but little and even by those back benchers who speak not at all, because they all go to form the public opinion of the House. To all these and to the co-operation which the Chair has experienced from all these is due the atmosphere that has obtained in the Dáil. The work of the Chair would have been impossible but for that co-operation which has been loyally given, not only by the leaders of parties in the House, but by every member of the House.

This Parliament is a new Parliament and this State is only a few years old; but it must not be forgotten that the people from whom we derive our authority represent an ancient nation whose honour and whose high repute it has been our duty and our privilege to maintain. In the annals of this House, at any rate, I think it will be found that we have done our best to maintain that honour and these high traditions.

The Oireachtas in its wisdom has thought fit to deny me the pleasures of combat at the election. I have formed, as Deputies have said before me, a considerable number of friendships with different Deputies in the House, and although I am prohibited from politics and political speeches, perhaps I would be allowed to say that if I had the choosing of a new House I would make very little change; I do not know that I would make any change at all.

With that the business of the Fourth Dáil is now concluded.

The Dáil rose at 8.40 p.m.