Deputy Law has treated us to a very instructive address. The only thing is that Deputy Law seems to have completely forgotten or left out of account what we on this side regard as essential in the consideration of this question. That is the fact that this country is neither united nor independent. As soon as we get to the position where we are both united and independent, I think we will then be in the position to discuss—and I hope we will have adequate knowledge at our disposal and better advice than we have had from this Committee—what exactly ought to be the principle upon which a Second Chamber ought to be elected. As a matter of fact—although Deputy Law has done his bit at bye-elections, as I have myself—he contending that on the one side lay the supreme mandate of the will of the people, and that there was no alternative to that but anarchy, desolation and civil war, and I do not know how many other things—although the Deputy has stressed that outside he now finds himself in the extraordinary position inside this House—where, as I have already said, you have practically all parties represented and where you have typified a certain stage of stability and security that you have reached outside—Deputy Law is not in a position, or at any rate I have not gathered it from the remarks he made, to make up his mind or to state the arguments upon which he made it up, that this right to elect the Seanad ought to be taken away from the people and given, not to the Dáil itself, but to the Seanad also. Now, arguments will be advanced, of course, with regard to the position in other countries. I think the fact that the country is partitioned, that it is not independent, and that you still have those oath-bound clauses which Deputy Law told us we cannot change, means that no change at all except one that is absolutely urgent and which all parties in the House can be agreed upon, ought to be made in the Constitution for the present. All this gives me the idea that the Government Party are now, with great hurry and great rush and great make-believe, and with nothing at all behind them in the form of analogies or parallels, or precedents or arguments of any kind, that, in spite of their lack of efficiency in all these matters, they are simply trying to rush through everything in the hope of securing that a certain state of affairs which they cannot secure in other ways is put in the way they require.
They are asking the Irish people to sign their name to a cheque and they will fill up that cheque. Why do they not leave these questions open while it is painfully evident that we cannot have unity upon them? Why cannot the Government Party be satisfied with the way things are progressing? Why are they not satisfied to work with the support and the co-operation of all members on this side of the House in the schemes of economic revival and reconstruction that we have heard so much about? Why are they in such a hurry to rush through all these Constitution Bills at this juncture? I shall be delighted if some members of the party opposite give us proof that the history of the peculiar circumstances of this country are behind the Government.
The only excuse I can find is that they do not want a general election to settle this question. They do not want the straight issue of the Seanad or the Constitution to come before the people. They have taken away the right to do that by means of the Initiative and the Referendum. They talk about their general mandate upon the question of the will of the people. Deputy Law says the people understand the Constitution. The people do not understand the Constitution. It would be interesting to know exactly how many printed copies of the Constitution are in existence in the country, to find out to what extent in the colleges and schools the primary elements of the Constitution have been examined and studied. It would be interesting to find out how many members of this House could give a verbal explanation of the Constitution and its chief clauses. I submit the country does not understand the Constitution, nor has the Constitution been put before the country in a proper manner. It was put before it on a certain date in 1922 and since that the Government Party have taken every opportunity they have got to say "the people are with us," and then to come along and say, as Deputy Law has said, "The people do not desire a certain thing. We know that the people do not want to elect this Seanad. We know the people so well and what they want that we are going to step in between the people and those people who follow Deputy de Valera, lest the people should still be misled and deceived." I submit the people do not understand these issues, that the proper way to make them understood by the people is to have a constitutional committee in which everybody can have confidence, which will examine the whole question and consider it in a spirit of judicial detachment and which will have in view the whole question of the unity and independence of the country. This Committee will in other words take for granted that there are certain aspirations which the party on this side of the House represents, that there are certain traditions in the Irish nation and that you cannot wipe out these things in one moment and say that just because a Seanad election is pending you must rush this thing at all costs; that there must be no discussion about it as time is too precious. In the name of goodness did anybody ever hear of the Government of a young State setting out on a difficult task of building a national policy by rushing through this difficult question without giving any arguments to support it, and by remorselessly using this machine of the guillotine and closure to carry it?
Now the American Senate is the Senate of a large country. It fulfils a special function—that is, it fulfils the function of the Federative principle of America. It brings together the representatives of all the States, and it is absolutely necessary, therefore, to knit up all the different State interests of America and to give the country some central control. Therefore the United States Senate is a body of extraordinary importance in the history of the country, and is elected, as far as I understand, by the people. Now we have the other extreme—the British House of Lords. If we had the old aristocracy here that we had at the time of Grattan's Parliament, I think Deputy Law's arguments would have some force. We have not that old aristocracy. They were not prepared to accept the principles which the common Irish people sought and which they struggled and fought for. Because they did not accept those principles they are gone. They are not coming back. If they had been here and had participated in our fight they would have been of immense value to us. Their talents and attainments have gone to build up the British Empire in other directions, but they are not here. If they were here they would have the special training which would entitle them to special consideration. They would have in addition the fact that they were residing in the country, but whatever remains of them and seeks position in the Seanad to-day has behind him or them only the melancholy history that at all times in the stages of the country's struggle towards freedom they were out against it. Then, when they discovered disunion in the ranks of the common people they thought they would climb into power on our backs. They are not going to do so, not at least without a severe struggle from this side of the House. They have no sympathy with the traditional aspirations of the Irish people. They are out to thwart them, and if they get this new power I have not the slightest doubt but that they will continue to do what they did in the past. Their pitiable and mean little attitude yesterday evening in Dublin indicates that this spirit of slavery we hear so much about is more dominant in them than in any other class of the Irish people. They cannot rise to an occasion. Are we now to place power in their hands, they who have been the hereditary antagonists of our race through all time? Furthermore, in the English House of Lords they have an aristocracy trained in diplomatic work for generations. They are acquainted with the problems of the Empire and conditions in other countries. They are of immeasurable value to the British Empire in that way. Furthermore, the English House of Lords has certain judicial functions to carry out which the Seanad of the Irish Free State has not. In England, for that reason, for the reason that it was brought more up to date, its powers curtailed, new blood introduced and the law lords brought in to strengthen it, in connection with its special legal function, the English House of Lords is on a different plane from our Seanad here.
If there are to be changes I submit those changes ought to come after a full and frank discussion when every member of the House is satisfied that his constituents understand the question thoroughly and that on each particular Bill a Deputy is able to get up and say that he has discussed the matter at issue with his constituents, that his constituents have given him a certain mandate or that at any rate he understands their view-point: he may or may not accept it, but at present our constituents do not understand these questions at all. I cannot understand why a better procedure could not be adopted: the Government had full experience of the last Seanad election, they knew the people did not turn out and that there were certain defects in the method of election. They had a right to make an arrangement to remedy the defects for the ensuing election. Instead of that, they take advantage of the opportunity to appoint a committee, and because that committee which we, on our side of the House at any rate, would not regard as having any special qualifications or knowledge which would enable them to deal with the matter from the point of view of the common Irish people brought in a certain verdict in accordance with the Government's policy and, I suppose, largely governed by the wishes of the Government in this matter, we are simply asked to take the results of that committee without consideration, without any argument being advanced in favour of them and to pass them here simply as if we were parts of a clockwork machine.
In connection with the question of the method of election, apart from the fact that you are giving to the Seanad certain powers to elect their own members, that in particular you are giving to the nominated members, who have no speak whatever of popular sanction or democratic election behind them, the power to elect themselves, you are in the position in this Bill that you do not know exactly what Senators are going to participate in the election. Can we regard legislation as being serious, well thought out, or as being conceived with the best interests of the country in view, when it is not specifically stated whether or not outgoing members of the Seanad are going to have a vote? If they are not, why is it not definitely stated in the Bill? As far as I can remember, the Ceann Comhairle in a previous stage of this debate was asked the question whether the members of the Seanad who are outgoing this year would have the right to participate in this election. I am not clear on the question, and I submit to the House that it is really nonsense to pass a measure of this character when we do not know definitely who are the persons who are going to participate in this election.
There is also the point with regard to useful public service and the panel. I admit we would have reason to modify our views on this side of the House if we could foresee how the panel of candidates is going to be selected, or if we could see what interests in the country are going to be represented there or what persons will be deemed to have had useful public service. If we could foresee that, if we had before us now some idea of what the panel will be, some idea of the candidates, from which we will have to select future members of the Seanad, I agree we might modify our policy, but we are being asked to give to the nominated members of the Seanad the right to elect their own members in the future (as well as giving that right to this House) without even knowing where the candidates are coming from, who is going to select them, or what the basis of their selection is going to be. In the very same way as we have had all those Constitution Bills dumped upon us and rushed through in the most unseemly manner, we are going in a few weeks more, perhaps before the session closes, to have dumped on us in the same way a certain panel of candidates selected by whom I do not know. A panel of names will be put before us; we can discuss them as long as we will as we have done in the case of the Bills in connection with changes in the Seanad, but the majority is there: it does not matter what arguments or appeals are made for unity in the country the Government majority will sit stolidly there and at the end of it all will pass this thing through.
If you are going to do that, you are not going to give the Party on this side of the House the feeling that they have a real voice in the selection of the Seanad. You are giving them the feeling that although they have advanced to meet you, although they have come in here and proffered their advice and co-operation in schemes and measures for the general benefit of the country, when it comes to a question of whether the Cumann na nGaedheal Party is going to hold its present majority and to remain in office for as long as it will, the Fianna Fáil Party can expect no fair play whatever; that once the question of the right of the Government to stay in office looms on the horizon, then no argument is going to count; it is simply going to be a Party question. Governments will change and must change, and in all this matter you are setting very dangerous precedents; you are doing things which a future Government may do. It may harp back on your action now; it may say that you did certain things, that by the force of your majority here, in spite of the fact that you had no clear mandate from the people, and that the Opposition did not and could not accept the principle of nearly all these Bills, and in spite of the opposition of the Labour Party as well as of the Fianna Fáil Party, you rushed them through. Will not that be a precedent for a future Executive? Will it not be in its power as well as it is in the power of the present Government to try by means of subterfuges of that kind, by appointing committees and then by rushing through decisions of these committees with a party majority, to create again in the country that feeling of instability and insecurity which the Government Party claim they have put an end to? If there was any spark of statesmanship or of national feeling or even of democratic feeling on the opposite benches; if the members of the Party opposite could only see themselves for once as representatives of the plain people of Ireland, who have got so far and want to go further, if they could only recollect what all parties who still hold national aspirations stood for a few years ago, I venture to say that they would not be dominated by this thought of getting Government measures through as quickly as possible and by means that would not be adopted by any assembly that was really conscious of its dignity or that really felt it had the power of the people behind it.