CENSORSHIP OF PUBLICATIONS BILL, 1928—SECOND STAGE.

This Bill has been before the people of this country for some little time, and it has been made the subject matter of much newspaper discussion. It has been attacked, on one side, by extremists, denouncing it as an unwarrantable infringement of the liberty of the subject and the rights of free citizenship, as an infringement upon their rights—if I may alter a well-known definition of John Stuart Mill—to follow out their own bent in their own way. On the other hand, it has been attacked by the extremists from another side, who say that it is a perfectly worthless and valueless measure, that it cannot achieve the purposes for which it is being designed, and that it is quite incapable of dealing with the class of evil which it is meant to combat.

For my part, I am rather heartened, emboldened and encouraged by this class of criticism. It makes me stronger in my belief that this Bill has been properly conceived, stronger in my opinion that both in what it essays to do and what it leaves undone, and in the machinery which it sets up for achieving its purpose, it has been wisely conceived.

If I find attacks from extremists, I might almost call them fanatics, coming from the right and coming from the left, I think I am justified in concluding that in the centre we are walking along the broad road of commonsense and following the dictates of human prudence. But there is also a certain class of criticism of this measure of a different type. Attacks have been made upon it and defences have been put forward for it in carefully thought-out and closely-reasoned articles and letters in the Press. Unfortunately, a great number of the attackers of this Bill have not attacked the Bill as it is, but have attacked a Bill of their own imagining, have built up, as it were, a structure with great pain and labour, and then exercised equal pain and equal labour in knocking down that same structure. Therefore, the issues have not been really knit before the country and I am afraid it may be necessary for me, in explaining what this Bill is, to occupy for some little time the attention of this House, if the House will be kind enough to give me its attention.

Plenty of time.

In the first place, I would like, before I go through the Bill section by section, to give some general outline of its aim, its scope and its machinery. It is a Bill designed to deal with indecent literature; that is to say, with indecent books, indecent periodicals, both magazines and newspapers, and also with indecent pictures. There is a special section in Part 4 which deals with propaganda in favour of birth control which is now such a growing force. Part 1 of the Bill is confined to definition. Part 2 explains the machinery which is set up and the nature of the books and periodicals which come under this Bill, and it also prohibits the sale of censored books in this country and prohibits their importation into this country.

The scheme is that there should be in the first place authorised associations, and these recognised associations, if they consider that a book should be censored, will send that to a board, consisting of five members, for consideration. They will do so through the Department of Justice. If the board considers that the book should be censored, should not be sold or imported into this country, then they report to the Minister for Justice, and he may make an order prohibiting its sale and prohibiting its importation. Part III. of the Bill deals with reports of certain judicial proceedings. Part IV. deals with this literature which advocates birth control and strengthens up the provisions of the Indecent Publications Act of 1857, which it repeals, and to some extent strengthens up and increases the penalties under the Indecent Advertisements Act of 1889.

Now, I will take the Bill, of which I have just roughly outlined the scope, section by section. I will deal first with the preliminary section, which is the section which gives definitions. I do not think I need deal with any definition which is contained in that section except the definition of the word "indecent," which is as follows: —"The word ‘indecent' shall be construed as including calculated to excite sexual passion or to suggest or incite to sexual immorality, or in any other way to corrupt or deprave." That definition has been the subject of very much criticism and very many attacks; indeed, one gentleman of very high literary ability, whose only fault as a literary man is, I think, that he does not write enough, and who has a great store of general information, has attacked this definition as being entirely heretical, a breach of the Manichean heresy and the Albigensian heresy, and, like some new Simon de Montfort, has put on his arms to destroy it, on the grounds that the words "calculated to excite sexual passion" are entirely heretical.

I would venture to point out that I, personally, can hardly follow the criticism which has been passed upon the use of these three words in this definition, because I cannot understand the class of book which would excite some person just to proper love and might not excite others towards unlawful lust. But it may be possible that those words, "to excite sexual passion," are really included in the later words, "to suggest or incite to sexual immorality." It is quite possible that they are, and it may be that that definition is to be censured for being rather overloaded with words. I may admit —I think I will admit—that it can be condemned upon grounds of tautology, but I cannot admit for one moment that it can be condemned upon the grounds of Albigensian heresy, even though a skilled writer in a leading Irish weekly has denounced it.

Coming now to the censorship of publications, which is dealt with by Part II., Section 3 deals with the establishment of a board of censors, and I think that on the construction of Section 3 two questions may be said to arise. One is the number of members who shall constitute the board—the numerical strength of the board: the other question is the term for which members of the board should hold office. The Bill proposes that members of the board shall be appointed by the Minister for Justice, that they shall be five in number and shall hold office for a period of three years. I submit that five is the proper number, the best number which can be got. On the one hand, I think it would be a mistake to have a board which would be altogether too small; on the other hand, that it would be entirely wrong to have a board exercising judicial functions, as this board must exercise judicial functions, which would be entirely too large and too unwieldy. I think it will be comparatively easy to get five judicially-minded persons to carry out fairly the provisions of this Bill, much easier than it would be to get twelve or fifteen persons of the same character to do so. I think that in discussing that question it will be necessary for us to consider what are the functions of that board, and what is the spirit in which the board of censors should—in fact must—approach the censoring of books. In the first place, the board, of course, must recognise that they are dealing with the property of certain individuals; they must recognise that they are dealing with the property of a writer and the property of a publisher. On the other hand, they must consider that they have a duty to the public to see that demoralising and degrading literature shall not be in circulation in this country.

It is, I think, comparatively easy to lay down the general principles upon which a board of censors should act. On the general question as to the principles upon which the board of censors should act, and upon which a properly-constituted board would, in fact, act, I think that there must be pretty general agreement amongst all classes of reasonable and intelligent men. A book can be fairly condemned only when in its whole course it makes for evil, when its tenour is bad, when in some important part of it, it is indecent, when—I might put it in this way —it is systematically indecent. It must not be condemned if it has here and there one or two exceptional passages. Let me take an example. I will take one well known work in English literature, Thackeray's "Vanity Fair." Most undoubtedly Becky Sharp in that book was not entirely a moral woman; she was clearly the opposite. Yet no board of censors could properly condemn "Vanity Fair" because of anything it relates of the doings of Becky Sharp. Let me take another example—the play "Othello." The play "Othello" is not an indecent play, yet there are some very objectionable expressions made use of by Iago in it. The play "Othello" could not be condemned by any sensible board of censors.

Again, a scientific medical work might contain things which to the ordinary non-medical person, taking it up for the first time, might appear extremely indecent, but no sensible board of censors, properly carrying out the functions of their office, would dream of censoring as indecent a scientific medical book. On the other hand, a book should be condemned if it is designedly or fundamentally immoral. To my mind, that is a great, broad, clear distinction, a distinction which, as I said before, I believe all intelligent, thinking men will agree exists. To sum it up in two short phrases: a book to be condemned must ex professo be immoral; it cannot be condemned if it is immoral merely obiter. That is a general proposition in which, I expect, all people will concur, but the application of that general principle is obviously extremely difficult. One book plainly should not be condemned, while another book plainly should be condemned, and it will often be a very difficult matter to draw a line between these two. Therefore the board of censors will be in a position in which it will be necessary for them to exercise a judicial discretion and act upon the lines—which I am sure they will—I have outlined. They will have some very difficult problems to solve. They must not be carried away by too much excitement to condemn a book which should not be condemned. On the other hand, they must not, because it has some great name behind it, be terrified into not condemning a book which should be condemned. I submit to this House that in deciding questions of this nature a small court, as it were, of five persons is to be preferred before any large unwieldy body. In five persons you will have a greater sense of responsibility in each one of the five than you would have if it were a larger body, but, on the other hand, you would not have an undue burden thrown upon them, nor would you have these questions decided solely by the exercise of one or two individual minds.

On the question of the length of time for which these censors should hold office, I recognise that there may be some differences of opinion, but, as a result of mature consideration, I suggest that three years would be about the correct and proper period. In three years a censor will have thoroughly shown his capabilities for the office. I do not apprehend that there will be great difficulty in obtaining the services of five suitable censors to make up this board, but everybody knows that persons who are thought likely to make good judges sometimes do not make good judges, and do not come up to expectations. It is quite possible that one of these selected gentlemen might not come up to expectations. In theory there will be power to remove him, though in practice, except for misconduct or non-attendance, it would be very difficult to carry it out. I think a period shorter than three years would be too short. The board in a lesser period would not show its capacity for its office. On the other hand, I think a longer period would be too long. Of course, there will always be a tendency to re-appoint. When a person holds even an unpaid office it is regarded more or less as the right thing, unless there be a certain amount of cause, to re-offer him that post, and I would point out that all the retiring members of the board are eligible for re-appointment. Therefore I submit to the House that three years is the proper period to select for these gentlemen to hold office.

I think Section 4 shows very little difficulty. It deals merely with the appointment of the officers and servants of the board. Section 5 prescribes for the meetings of the board. The board will themselves decide as to when they should meet. Section 6 is a section which has also been very considerably criticised and has been a matter of much discussion. It is a section which puts the initiation of proceedings under part of this Act in the hands of recognised associations, the procedure being that a body of men will come together and examine books and periodicals which they think are likely to be dangerous. If they see that there is a prima facie case, because final responsibility does not rest on them, they will send it on to the Department of Justice and there, unless it is seen that the charge is entirely frivolous, it will be sent on to the censorship board. That starts off with a recognised body of thinking persons investigating, in the first instance, as to whether a book or periodical should or should not be condemned. They have not judicial powers. Their duty ceases when they have placed before other persons the books or periodicals which they consider to be censurable. They will probably contain amongst them a considerable number of social workers who will get down to the back streets and slums of our big cities and see there in small stationers' shops, and shops of that class, the kind of literature that is being sold. They will be in a position to see the literature which is doing real harm in those parts of our cities and, seeing that, they will be in a position to send forward for consideration especially baneful and harmful periodicals and magazines.

On the other hand, if this matter were left entirely to unorganised effort, if it was simply to be left to here and there a casual individual being spurred up for a moment or two to a little exertion and then dropped away, I do not think the work would be properly or efficiently done, and that there would be a danger of this Act becoming, not indeed a dead letter, but not being applied as vigorously and in such a lively fashion as one would wish and hope that it would be applied. I think also if it were left entirely to individual effort that, on occasions, a very large number of people might see a newspaper containing one exceptional article. Then you might have on one day a huge pile of this particular paper coming in and perhaps for the next week or more, or the next month or six months no other copies of that particular paper coming in which, when I come to deal with the suppression of periodicals, I will show would be a most unfortunate thing, for periodicals, under the terms of this Bill are not to be condemned because one casual article or so has appeared in them. They are only to be condemned if exceptional articles appear in a certain succession of numbers. On the ground, then, of recognised associations, I submit that this will be very effective, and also, I think, far preferable to any alternative which could be put forward.

Section 7 deals with prohibition orders in respect of books. The first section is as follows:—

Whenever a complaint is duly made under this Act by a recognised association to the Minister to the effect that a book or a particular edition of a book is indecent or obscene or tends to inculcate principles contrary to public morality or is otherwise of such character that the sale or distribution thereof is or tends to be injurious or detrimental to or subversive of public morality, the Minister may refer such complaint to the Board.

Now, the interpretation of that section seems to have led in certain quarters to a great deal of misgiving. That, I think, is due to the fact that the section has not been correctly construed by its critics. There is one fundamental rule of legal interpretation which must be applied to every statute, and the rule is technically known as the rule of ejusdem generis: that is to say, that when you have specific words, and after those specific words you have general words, then the general words are controlled by the preceding particular words, and only apply to things which are of similar nature to the particular words. In the particular instance before us, the words "contrary to public morality," and the other words which follow, are all controlled by the earlier words, "indecent or obscene," and it must be things which are similar to those that are censurable under this Bill. Let me take an example again from literature. If you took a particularly wide meaning of the words "public morality" it would most undoubtedly take in suicide. That, I suppose, everyone will agree is contrary to public morality. In a famous modern book of verse—"The Shropshire Lad"—there is a poem which, most undoubtedly, advocates suicide. It would not come under that definition of "contrary to public morality" because it would be entirely different from what this Bill is dealing with. This Bill deals solely with questions of sexual morality or sexual perversion.

It has been pointed out to me that this board of censors will not be a board constituted of lawyers, and that they might put their own interpretation upon the section and might give it a wider interpretation than the interpretation which I have now set upon it, and which I am satisfied is the correct interpretation. Personally, I would not be very much afraid of that, because if they had difficulties about interpretation, I fancy they would go to the trouble of getting legal opinion upon the matter, but as far as I am concerned if the wording of that section is difficult and complicated to the ordinary layman I am ready to accept in committee an amendment which would show to the layman that this Bill is confined to what, in fact, it is confined, matters of sexual immorality or things connected therewith. In Section 8 we go on to deal with periodical publications. These differ slightly from books. The book is there once and for all to be judged once and for all. It is, as it were, a permanent thing. The periodical differs from that. The periodical is of an ephemeral nature, and there may be an occasional article in an otherwise harmless periodical for which it would be unfair and unjust to condemn that periodical. Accordingly the section refers to "several issues of a periodical publication recently theretofore published have usually or frequently been indecent or obscene," and then there are other words controlled by these.

I think the most useful function this Bill will perform will be to prohibit the sale in this country of objectionable newspapers. Now it may be that in judging a newspaper you may find a large number of articles, reports, bits of so-called news, all dealing with sexual matters. You may not find any single one of those in itself entirely objectionable, but when you find perpetually one heaped on another, when you find that the person who reads that paper has his or her mind from the beginning of the time he or she reads that paper until the end of the time steeped in the details of sexually unpleasant cases, it must have the effect of depraving that particular person's mind, and, therefore, we have these wide words controlled, as I say, by the word "sexual." But at the same time they make it clear that if the whole tenor or course of these newspaper articles is such that it demoralises and depraves in sexual matters the persons who read them then that newspaper must not be introduced into this country and must not be sold in this country. But again, I say, there might be one particular issue of a paper which contained one article of a very improper kind, and yet for that one mistake it would not be fair that paper should be banned, and that persons who wish to read that otherwise, possibly in a great number of respects, admirable paper should not be deprived of the right of reading that paper.

Section 9 says: "The Minister may at any time after consultation with the board, by order revoke any prohibition order theretofore made by him under this Act." It naturally follows that a paper may be for some continuous time improper, but it may come under different managership, under different editorship, and it may mend its ways. It may become a paper which it would be quite right to allow the circulation of, and in consequence power remains with the Minister to take away the prohibition, but in order to do so he must also get the views of the board. Sub-section (2) of Section 9 is the same as that dealing with books, because, of course, it has happened in the case of several books that a first edition has come out which has been objectionable —a book which would be banned—and a second re-written modified edition come out which is not in itself censurable.

Section 10 provides that prohibition orders shall be published in "Iris Oifigiúil" as soon as possible after the time they have been made. I have heard a considerable amount of criticism upon that provision, and, of course, it is an unfortunate result which must flow from this legislation—which is inseparable from this legislation—that if you have a list of improper books it enables persons who wish to read improper books to go through the list, and then when they go outside this country they will have a list of improper books. They need not search for improper books, as they will have a list of books which are improper compiled before them.

That is, of course, I admit, an unfortunate result, but it is a necessary result, and I think its evil may be very greatly exaggerated, but of this I am satisfied, and I would ask the House to hold, that whatever evil may be done by the publication of this list that that evil will be infinitesimal, that it will be entirely negligible in comparison with the good which will be done by keeping away from the innocent-minded and the pure-minded these books.

Section 11 says:—"(1) It shall not be lawful for any person, otherwise than under and in accordance with a permit in writing granted to him under this section—(a) to import into Saorstát Eireann for sale or distribution, or (b) to sell, or expose, offer or keep for sale, or (c) to distribute or offer or keep for distribution, any book or any particular edition of a book or any issue of a periodical publication," in respect of which a prohibition order has been made. That, I think, is a very simple section. It does not require any explanation or any comment. If you have a prohibition order it can only be carried out by preventing the sale of the book or periodical prohibited. Sub-section (2) sets out the penalties for a breach of sub-section (1). Sub-section (3) deals with the power to give a permit or licence to import books to certain persons, which books would otherwise be prohibited and condemned.

Section 12 says that the Minister shall prepare and keep a register to be called and known as "The Register of Prohibited Publications." It also sets out what it is to be. Section 13 gives power to a district justice, on the information of an officer of the Gárda Síochána not below the rank of chief superintendent, to issue a search warrant in respect of prohibited books which are being kept for the purpose of sale or distribution. Section 14 says that the making of a prohibition order shall be, as it were, a sort of automatic order under the Customs Consolidation Act, 1876. Under that Act an order prohibiting the introduction of indecent books can be made, and is made, but at present it is not altogether a satisfactory proceeding because the Minister who makes the order has not had the advice of a board of censors and very often, in fact almost always, he must act on what he has been told about a book, what he has seen about it, or on the fact that it has been prohibited in other countries.

That is practically the only ground he can stand on now when exercising his discretion in making prohibition orders against the importation of books. Now the task will become much easier because, instead of an individual Minister exercising his discretion as to what books should or should not be imported, it does not take away the power and does not prevent the importation of obscene books being stopped. It says that when a prohibition order has been made these books will automatically be kept out. I submit that that is a wise provision because I think that there would be very little gained in prohibiting the selling of books in bookshops if it were free to anyone to send away the price of a book to an English or Six-county bookseller and get back the book, or to go to England and bring back a trunk-load of books which appear on the Censor's list. Sub-section (2) of Section 14 deals with Section 16 of the Post Office Act, 1908, which prohibits the sending of indecent matter through the post. This sub-section makes, as it were, also an automatic order under that particular section.

Part 3 of this Bill is one that has not come in for very much consideration and, except for sub-section (1) of Section 15, I do not think that it will have very much effect in this country because it deals with the printing and publishing of objectionable things and I am glad to say that in this country, though there have been some, there are not many papers which would publish improper proceedings with reference to divorce, especially as there are no divorce proceedings in our country. Probably most of these papers would get their information from English sources and a similar provision obtains in England. Sub-section (1) of Section 15 says:—"It shall not be lawful to print or publish or cause or procure to be printed or published in relation to any judicial proceedings—(a) any indecent matter the publication of which would be calculated to injure public morals, or (b) any indecent medical, surgical, or physiological details the publication of which would be calculated to injure public morals."

That sub-section is one which I know could certainly have been used in the past. It is not only in divorce cases, or cases of that nature, in which there may be very unpleasant details, that you get indecent matter. You often get in murder trials very indecent details. In connection with actions for seduction and indecent assault, it is obvious that if they were reported verbatim there would be unpleasant details, and sometimes, when persons are well-known, local papers may have a tendency to publish, more fully and in greater detail than they otherwise would, reports of actions for seduction or indecent assault. If in published reports of trials which take place in this country or outside they print or publish indecent matter, the publication of which would be calculated to injure public morals, they can be prosecuted under that sub-section.

Part 4 deals entirely with court proceedings. Section 17, which deals with birth control, says:—

(1) It shall not be lawful for any person, otherwise than under and in accordance with a permit in writing granted to him under this section—

(a) to print or publish or cause or procure to be printed or published, or

(b) to sell or expose, offer, or keep for sale, or

(c) to distribute, offer or keep for distribution,

any book or periodical publication which advocates or which might reasonably be supposed to advocate the unnatural prevention of conception or the procurement of abortion or miscarriage or any method, treatment, or appliance to be used for the purpose of such prevention or such procurement.

That section has been attacked by persons who say that this question may be treated as a social question, and that its merits or demerits should be argued out. That is a proposition to which we cannot and will not assent. In our views on this matter we are perfectly clear and perfectly definite. We will not allow, as far as it lies with us to prevent it, the free discussion of this question which entails on one side of it advocacy. We have made up our minds that it is wrong. That conclusion is for us unalterable. We consider it to be a matter of grave importance. We have decided, call it dogmatically if you like—and I believe almost all persons in this country are in agreement with us—that that question shall not be freely and openly discussed. That question shall not be advocated in any book or in any periodical which circulates in this country. Sub-section (2) sets out the punishment. Sub-section (3) gives power to the Minister under certain conditions to give a permit.

Section 18 is an amendment of the Indecent Advertisements Act of 1889. No section, I think, of this Bill has been the subject of more attack by entirely ill-informed critics than this particular section. Under the Indecent Advertisements Act of 1889 it is prohibited to place up in public certain classes of advertisements. I will not read the whole section, but the germane part is as follows: "Whoever affixes to, or inscribes on, any house, building, wall, hoarding, gate, fence, pillar, post, board, tree, or any other thing whatsoever, so as to be visible to a person being in or passing along any street, public highway or footpath, and whoever affixes to or inscribes on any public urinal or delivers or attempts to deliver or exhibits to any inhabitant or to any person being in or passing along any street, public highway, or footpath," etc. The section goes on to recite the way in which such persons shall be punished. Any advertisement relating to venereal disease is by Section 5 declared to be indecent or obscene within the meaning of the section. As Deputies will see, in addition to what that section says, we propose to add under this Bill certain other classes of advertisements, but those are advertisements which are placed in public affixed to a road or to a window from which they can be seen from the road, and so on. This section does not deal at all with the Venereal Diseases Act of 1918, which enables public bodies, if they wish, to put up advertisements in the street or anywhere else, with the sanction of the Local Government Department, notices advising persons to be attended by doctors. I may add that the whole idea both of this section, which we have strengthened by the addition of the Indecent Advertisements Act of 1889 and of the Act of 1918, is to see that persons suffering from this class of ailment are not at the mercy of quacks who take advantage of their possible reluctance to attend respectable doctors, but that on the contrary they should be encouraged to attend respectable qualified medical practitioners.

Section 19 deals with the sale of indecent pictures:

"It shall not be lawful for any person to sell or offer, expose, or keep for sale any indecent picture, and every person who sells or offers, exposes or keeps for sale any indecent picture, in contravention of this section, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction thereof in the case of a first offence to a fine not exceeding £50." etc.

I apprehend that it is not a section upon which there will be very much difference of opinion. It is quite obvious that an indecent picture may be just as harmful, just as baneful, as an indecent book or an indecent periodical. Indeed, I suppose the worst class of all is the class in which you get the two intermingled, in which you get an indecent letterpress surrounding an indecent picture.

Section 20 gives extended powers to a district justice in granting a search warrant to search for indecent pictures which are kept for the purposes of sale. It used to be necessary to prove that a sale had actually taken place. Now it is sufficient for the officer of the Guards to have reasonable grounds for believing that indecent pictures are being kept in premises for the purposes of sale without proving already that a sale has taken place. That is to say, that the evil of selling these pictures shall be forestalled, that the stable door shall not be locked only after the horse has gone, or part of the stud is gone. That section also repeals the Obscene Publications Act of 1867, because all the matters with which that particular statute deals have been dealt with in a larger and more extended form under this Act.

Section 21 lays down that: "The Minister may by order make regulations prescribing.... (a) the manner and form in which complaints are to be made to the Minister under this Act, (b) the procedure of the Censorship of Publications Board and the forms used by them for the purposes of this Act, (c) any matter or thing referred to in this Act as prescribed or to be prescribed by the Minister by regulations made under this Act."

Section 22 is a formal section setting out that any money which has to be expended shall be paid out of monies provided by the Oireachtas.

That is the Censorship of Publications Bill which I now introduce. It provides for this board, and sets up the procedure which is to be adopted in carrying out its provisions. It gives power to a body of five men—undoubtedly it gives very considerable power—subject to the powers which are reserved to the Minister for Justice for the time being, and that means, of course, subject to the control and criticism of this Dáil. Personally I think it proper that some Minister should be responsible for important executive action, and that in a matter of importance—and I do consider this a matter of very considerable importance—the action of the Minister should be subject to criticism in this House— that the House might have an opportunity of expressing its own opinion. Great powers are given in this Bill, no doubt. They may be abused. I am quite aware of the fact that if these powers are abused injury may follow. It is a wide Bill, it is a comprehensive Bill, it is a strong measure, and it follows from that that the large powers which are given may be abused. As to whether it will be a success or a failure, make more for good or more for evil, will, I frankly admit, depend very largely upon the personnel of the board. But I ask the House to believe that it will not be impossible, that it will not be even unduly difficult to obtain the services of five honourable, honest, intelligent men who will be able to carry out successfully, to the good of this country, the duties and functions which it will be for them to carry out under the provisions of the Bill.

As far as we on this side of the House are concerned, we are in agreement with the alleged objective or the professed purpose of the Bill so far as it is intended to deal with evil literature and with the other matters set out, save and except where it contains certain terms that are too vague of definition and entirely too indefinite to allow them to pass without having them in some way curtailed or having it made clear that they do not embody things that we never had in our minds, and that we do not think were meant to be embodied. The Minister, at the outset, stated that this Bill was very wisely conceived, but I might add the opinion to that, from reading through the Bill, that it is very loosely drafted, and I think the pains that the Minister has taken to try and explain the various meanings of the context in certain sections and of certain phrases and sentences will bear out that the conclusion we have come to that it is loosely drafted is not a hasty or rash one. The proper time, of course, to amend this Bill will arise on the Committee Stage, and we intend to take advantage of that to amend and alter certain sections or portions of sections. However, in order that the Minister may consider in the meantime the sections to which it is our intention to put down amendments, and his attitude with regard to the amendments, I will briefly indicate some of the sections to which we take exception.

In Section 2, with regard to the definition of the word "book," we take it that the book is taken as a whole, and that reference is not made to portions of the book. It may be considered by this board which the Minister proposes to set up that some portion of an otherwise quite good book contains something obscene or something that might be objectionable under the terms of the Bill. Similarly, that "printed publication" takes in the whole publication. We think that that should be made very clear and definite. It would not be just that this Bill should become an Act with this so vague as it is. The Minister has defined the word "indecent" in the succeeding paragraph, but we consider that it is altogether too vague and indefinite. However, as I said, on the Committee Stage it may be possible to frame an amendment that will make it more definite and clear. As to Part 2, Section 3 (1), we disagree with the number of the board. The Minister has stated that it would be unwise that the board should consist of a larger number. The exact personnel of the board has not been indicated, but if it is to be satisfactory, and is to gain confidence, our view is that it must be representative, as far as possible, of every section and creed in the community, unless perhaps some judicial functions are assigned to it. However, as I said, that is not clear at the moment, but I do not see that there can be any serious objection by the Minister to increasing it from five to nine. Then, in order to declare a publication, or portion of a book or anything else obscene, it should be necessary that at least six of these nine should agree to its suppression or to its being banned or otherwise.

With regard to Section 4, the Minister has not given any idea as to the number of the staff or what this will cost. Perhaps it may be unfair to expect at present that the Minister would be in a position to give that. However, there might be some indication given to the House as to what this whole proceeding is going to cost. I think that would be possible and the House might have some idea with regard to it. Section 6 is very indefinite also. It refers to "recognised associations." There is one well-known and, so far as we are aware, very well recognised association. I wonder would it be one of those that come under Section 6—that is, the C.I.D. Similarly Section 7 (1) is too wide and indefinite. The Minister has gone to some pains to explain this general rule with regard to construing "or tends to inculcate principles contrary to public morality." I submit that the Minister has not satisfactorily explained that or has not put it on a basis that should satisfy the House. If the words subsequent to the first sentence of the section were explanatory or could be suggested to be what might be called an omnibus statement, then the rule that the Minister has enunciated would be correct. But the rule which the Minister has enunciated in this particular matter is not applicable, because we have in the section what might be called alternatives. What we complain of in the section is that there are alternatives and that the general rule that he has endeavoured to apply to this particular case does not apply at all. The Minister has asked us to read this reference to public morality in connection with the whole context of the Bill. This, I think, is the first time that it is made an offence, or where books can be prohibited which may be construed to contain anything contrary to public morality. If we turn to the Preamble of the Bill we find that it is

An Act to make provision for the prohibition of the sale and distribution of unwholesome literature and for that purpose to provide for the establishment of a censorship of books and periodical publications, and to restrict the publication of reports of certain classes of judicial proceedings and for other purposes incidental to the matters aforesaid.

There is not one word in the Preamble about obscene literature, or anything like that. Neither is there anything about public morality. The Bill is described as "the Censorship of Publications Bill," not of obscene publications or anything like that, and I submit that in Section 7 this reference to public morality is put in as an alternative, and not to explain the first portion of the section. It is an alternative and not explanatory at all. I hope when the Committee Stage is reached that the Minister will be agreeable to alter that.

I have already said that if it was not clear to the lay mind I was willing to consider an amendment that would make it more clear to the man in the street.

I do not know whether we are supposed to be in the street or not, at the moment, but I think we may indicate that on this side of the House, at any rate, there is disagreement with the views he expressed. In Section 7 (3) the same applies; public morality is mentioned in the same context again. In Section 8 (1) you have the same reference to public morality, and also in Section 8 (3). We on this side of the House think it very necessary to put very definitely what is meant by public morality. Not very long since, from a high and protected place, certain happenings in this country were described as breaches of public morality. Time, however, has proved they were otherwise. Since this phrase "public morality" has been so loosely used, and bandied about the country, it is quite possible that even the members of this board might get into an atmosphere and construe a lot of things as against public morality which were shouted from platforms some time ago. In Section 11 (1) (c) the word "distribute" might be construed as passing on books without necessarily selling them. We agree that that is sound and right if the need for the prohibition of the particular book is sound.

Section 11 (3) does, perhaps, appear to give too much power to the Minister. It gives a monopoly to the Minister for Justice for the time being. We suggest that some sort of sales register should be kept. With regard to the publication of the judicial proceedings, the Minister has gone very far in allowing to be published a lot of matter that might well be excluded. Matters that might affect lawyers and people like that could be found, and people know where to find them if they want to, and it is not necessary that they should be published in the papers. I refer to Section 15 (2), paragraph (e), which reads: "The summing up of the judge and the findings of the jury, or the decision of the court and the observations of the judge when pronouncing his decision." Now the publication of these matters itself gives to the general public practically the whole facts of the case, as the Minister is aware. The judge, in summing up, reviews the evidence, and it is a very clear if concise and short account of the evidence in court. It does not seem to be clear from Section 19 (2) whether the Minister proposes to repeal Section 42 of the Customs Consolidation Act of 1876, and Section 16 of the Post Office Act of 1908. The way in which the matter is put in the sub-section seems to be a cumbersome way of putting it; either the sections should be repealed or they should not, and that should be made clear in the Bill. I do not think they can be repealed in the way set out in the Bill.

That is, briefly, our attitude towards the Bill. We are not concerned with what the Minister referred to as extremists or fanatics on one side or the other. We cannot shut our eyes to the facts that we read in the newspapers that this Bill is being looked forward to by various sections of the community for a long time. Now it has made its appearance, it has succeeded in doing something which no Bill that I am aware of ever did before. It seems to have divided even T.C.D. against itself. This morning, in a propaganda sheet which circulates in this country, we had the spectacle of sending three gallant men to battle under the banner of Thermopylae, and above their heads classical and, I suppose, mathematical details; and certainly, I suppose, a distinguished medical man to render first aid. These may be extreme ideas, but if the Minister takes the precaution of making all these matters clear in this Bill we cannot see, on this side of the House, at any rate, how in any way whatever, literature or art can suffer in the slightest degree from the passing of this Bill. It is by discussing it in Committee and getting suitable amendments framed that all that can be provided for. When the Committee Stage is reached we will submit amendments which we hope the Minister will consider favourably and which we hope will be a strength rather than be a weakness in the Bill. The Minister might have given some details in introducing this Bill of the necessity that exists for it. We do not want a morbid recital in this House, but at the same time the House might have had the means of strengthening the Bill itself by details of the number of prosecutions that have taken place under the existing law in the country or any other details that may show the absolute necessity that exists for this Bill.

I believe I am right in saying that this measure was founded on the report of a Committee which sat during 1926 and issued its report about the end of that year. I must express my surprise that, from first to last, during his speech with regard to this Bill, the Minister never made the slightest reference to the report of this Committee. I think that is rather unusual. Most Ministers come along with their Bills when they are founded on reports of committees of that kind and generally explain their Bills by pointing out that the committee sat, took evidence, and came to certain conclusions which they had sought to embody in their Bills. I perhaps, am led to say that because I happen to have had the privilege of sitting on that Committee. Undoubtedly a very great mass of evidence was brought to the notice of the Committee with regard to the evil to which this Bill proposes to put an end. That evidence was of a varying nature, but of all the various bodies, associations, individuals and societies of one kind or another that brought any evidence to the notice of the Committee as a result of invitation by advertisement, letter or otherwise, I think there was only one small organisation satisfied that matters were satisfactory as they existed at present. The general body of opinion in the country was to the effect that it was necessary to take some drastic steps to put an end to the flood of evil literature coming into this country. So, in so far as the general principle of this Bill is concerned, in so far as it seeks to do that, and in so far as it gives expression to the general desire on the part of the country to put a stop to this growing evil, it will, I feel certain, have the support of every section represented in this House. So far as I personally am concerned, and I believe I express the views of those who sit with me, I stand definitely by the report of the Evil Literature Committee. I have not had time, for personal reasons, to examine this measure very closely, especially to compare it, section by section or line by line, with the recommendations of that report which, in many ways, was a remarkable report in so far as, although composed of people of varying religious and political opinions, it was absolutely a unanimous report. So I am not in a position to say, with any degree of definiteness, whether or not the Bill departs from the report, but if it does, and goes beyond those recommendations or falls short of them, in so far as it does that, I propose to hold myself free, after further examination, to attempt to amend, if necessary, any provisions of the Bill in which it does depart from the report, because I believe that the various views put forward and the evidence submitted got the most careful consideration from the members who constituted that Committee. We believe that, while our recommendations were such that they could not be regarded in any way as being extreme, they were of a sufficient nature to prevent the evil which all are agreed should be stopped.

The Minister has referred to the newspaper controversy which has taken place since the introduction of this Bill. I am in the position that I have not seen any of that controversy; that may be a disadvantage or otherwise, but there are some points in the Bill that a cursory examination will show are somewhat different from the conclusions and recommendations made in the report. I may say, on that question raised by Deputy Ruttledge, and which appears, judging from the Minister's detailed explanation, has been one of the subjects of controversy to which he refers, the question of public morality, —I believe I am right in saying it. I speak a considerable time after the sittings of the Committee; fortunately there is another Deputy in the House who was a member of the Committee and who will be able to correct or confirm any statements I make—I believe there was unanimity amongst the members of the Committee that the type of immorality it was sought to prevent was sexual immorality. That was what the attention of the Committee was strictly confined to. I took occasion on examining several witnesses to ask them if they intended, by their advocacy of the censorship of measures of this kind, to prevent discussions of sociological or philosophic questions which might, by some, be regarded as tending to pervert public morality. I call attention to the fact that it might be possible, even though not probable, that we might have in power in this country a Government which would consider that the discussion say of such matters as Communism, Bolshevism, or other 'isms we might think of would be subversive of public morality. I instanced the case of newspapers published in this country which some people might possibly condemn on the grounds that they were subversive of public morality, and, in fact, which another State, not far from where we are, has already condemned on somewhat similar grounds. In every case, I want to make it clear to the House, in which questions of that kind arose the persons, giving their evidence on behalf of societies or bodies of various kinds, made it quite clear that the type of immorality they were after was of the type I have mentioned, sexual immorality or matters connected therewith. In their report the Committee drew special attention to the danger of loose drafting or loose words that might be used. They said:

But the grounds of prohibition should be strictly limited to the case of publications undesirable from the point of view of public morality. The danger has been pointed out that a censorship might be exercised to restrict the circulation of papers because of objection to the political or economic opinions expressed or advocated by the papers. Such a danger should be obviated by a statutory limitation of the grounds on which the order of prohibition should be based.

I confess that I have very grave doubts indeed with regard to Section 7. The Minister did go some way towards removing these doubts, but when I heard Deputy Ruttledge he made them come back again. The Minister said the objection was made, and quite rightly made, that the board of censors would be lawvers. He said they would not necessarily be lawyers; they would be ordinary laymen so far as legal matters are concerned. It would never have struck the ordinary layman that an interpretation such as the Minister has referred to could be put on Section 7. The ordinary layman would take quite a different interpretation out of it. He says, of course, that if the Committee were in doubt they could consult legal opinion. Here we have the Minister for Justice and a prospective Minister for Justice—two lawyers—giving totally different opinions about the same section. I suppose it would be quite possible to get six different interpretations of that section from six lawyers in this city. I am quite certain it would. So there is a danger in trusting to what are known as legal interpretations, well known to lawyers, but mysteries so far as the ordinary layman is concerned. This is a Bill of great public interest, a Bill which will be read by men who have no legal training whatsoever and will be interpreted in the ordinary sense and not in the lawyers' jargon. It is essential, therefore, that the Bill should be drafted so that it will be quite clear to the ordinary layman what is intended and the type of literature it is intended to suppress. I will await, therefore, with a certain amount of interest the Minister's proposed amendment to this section.

Will the Deputy not offer one himself? Mine might be jargon.

Mr. O'CONNELL

I trust, after what the Minister has heard, that he will come out of his legal environment and deal with the man in the street. The Committee's recommendation was that the number who would comprise the censorship board should be from nine to twelve persons. The Minister has put in five, and he has given us no reason why he has in that respect departed very definitely from the recommendations of the Committee. He has told us that he thinks five will be quite a suitable number, but he made no reference, as I said, to the report, and it is a significant fact that the Committee recommended that the number should be from nine to twelve. The Committee did that after very long and serious consideration. I believe I am right in saying that this matter was discussed for some considerable time. It was thought, from one point of view, that a small body would deal more quickly with the matter which was put before it, but it was felt that it would be necessary to have many interests represented on a board of that kind and that it would not be possible to give due representation to the various interests that ought to be represented if the board consisted of anything less than nine persons. I hold that view strongly still, that nine ought to be the minimum number to constitute that board. I would be prepared then to agree with Deputy Ruttledge's suggestion that a two-thirds or three-fourths majority should be necessary for a decision.

I would like that the Minister would indicate in the Bill itself the type of person who would be put on the board. The words "fit and proper" are too vague. "The Minister shall appoint fit and proper persons"—I do not know exactly what the Minister's view is as to fit and proper and we must remember that our present Minister is not the only Minister for Justice we may have. We may have a man whose view as to what a fit and proper person would be would be quite different from his. I would prefer that there would be some guidance on the lines suggested by the Committee, that there would be representatives of the religious, educational, literary and artistic interests of the Saorstát. I do not see any objection to putting a phrase like that into the Bill. Possibly the Minister, because he is a lawyer, would say that is one of the faults of having a lawyer in the position of Minister so far as Bills which are of such general interest are concerned.

On the question of recognised associations, too, I think the Bill ought to be more definite. Of course, I see the difficulty of allowing individual complaints, but there is the other argument also against that. I think the Minister should give us some clearer indication of the type of association that will be recognised and, if possible, that too should be indicated in the Bill. There is one thing I would say, that while taking all necessary measures to prevent an evil which undoubtedly exists, when this Bill finally emerges from the House, care should be taken to see that a measure of this kind does not go too far, because if it did go too far I believe it would have the effect of defeating the object which it was intended to accomplish.

I would suggest to the Minister that this is essentially the type of measure that ought to be treated as a non-Party measure and that all amendments that come up, no matter from what side of the House, should be dealt with on their merits and that Deputies should be encouraged to express their views freely on them. Even I would say to Cumann na nGaedheal members that the fact that this is a Government measure should not deter them from putting up such amendments as they think right and proper. It has been the growing custom that a Government measure of this kind is and must be deemed to be the last word so far as members on a certain side of the House are concerned, but I think a measure of this kind is one to which all Parties ought to be encouraged to put up amendments and that they should get the fullest discussion. The measure should not be regarded in any sense as being a Party one. It is essentially one in which all Parties should join in their efforts, so that when it emerges from this House it will be satisfactory to all concerned and in that way give expression to the opinion which is very generally held throughout the country by people of all shades of political and religious opinion.

I have not had the advantage, like the last speaker, or the advantage of some other Deputies in the House, of being a member of the Committee to which Deputy O'Connell referred, and whose work we now see before us. I have, as the Minister knows, taken a rather keen interest in this Bill from the moment it was proposed. I have had an opportunity, and I made it indeed my business, to discuss its provisions with a great number of people, including people, indeed, of all kinds and sorts, including writers, a body of which I am myself a very modest, humble member. I may perhaps be allowed to make a few rather general observations. I do not want at this stage to go into details of criticism. The criticism so far has been of details.

At this stage I do not want to go into very much detail or to suggest amendments that could more conveniently be dealt with at a later stage. The first observation which I would like to make is this, that after a fairly long experience of public affairs and administration, I do not think I ever knew a Bill which, on the one hand, received so much general assent in its principle. I do not think I knew any Bill, not being a Bill which directly affected the material welfare of any large class, which received so much attention. I should say it received quite an extraordinary general approval so far as I conceive in its main purpose and object. The second observation I make is that I have seen few Bills which, having the principle admitted, has received in the early stages so much criticism and which awakened so much apprehension in various quarters lest in its practical working it should, as Deputy O'Connell said, defeat its own object through unwise administration. The third observation I make is this, that neither approval nor criticism is confined to any one political party or to any one religious creed or to any one social class. For example, I have met Protestants who are breast high in approval of this measure. I know Catholics who regard it in many aspects with very considerable apprehension. Now, let me say this much, so far as the right of the State to intervene in matters of this sort is concerned, I believe that there can be now but one opinion. We are a long way from the time when in any State it was thought to be an axiom that the only function of the State is to maintain order and to act as a big policeman. We have seen the State interfere in business and in industry, to protect women and children from exploitation, to regulate the hours and wages even of adult labour. We have seen the State interfere in the home by sanitary and educational Acts.

A man can no longer be said to have a right to do what he likes with his own, to use that old-fashioned phrase, whether it was his own children or his own person or his own health. The State intervenes to regulate, for example, the sale of drugs. It does so with general and constant approval, and I cannot conceive that it can be now seriously maintained that if the State has a right to intervene in matters of that sort—if, for example, it has a right to say that a dose of morphia needed to relieve the agony of a cancer patient can only be given under the most extraordinary precaution—I do not conceive how it can be maintained that it has not equally the right to say to the newspaper proprietor: "You shall not, for the sake of gain, spread your poison through the length and breadth of the land." I make these remarks for a special reason. It is because I have observed that some of those with whose detailed criticism of certain portions of this Bill I agree, have allowed themselves, as I think, to take up what I regard as an entirely indefensible position. It is a position to which I can never assent. I regard it as absolutely the right and the duty of the State to have a care for the moral as well as for the physical well-being of its people.

So much being said, I ask you what is exactly the evil that this Bill essays to combat, and what is the extent of that evil? What is the machinery by which it is proposed to combat it, and how far is that machinery likely to be effective? Now, as to the evil, I do not think there can be any doubt. It consists in this—as to nine-tenths of it— that the great, powerful organisations of the modern newspapers are directed in such a fashion—and this is particularly so in English-speaking countries, because the evil is not so much in the Latin countries, but is confined to America, England and, to an extent, in this country—that great organisation is directed to the production of a kind of newspaper which specialises in sordid, evil, demoralising matter. That is one of the faults I find with this Bill, that it does not go far enough. Not merely matters sexually degrading, but degrading equally, I think, in other ways, are published week after week, especially in Sunday papers, and not solely in Sunday papers. We have these glaring headlines which relate in every case to some sordid, disgusting crime, or to some other evil aspect of life. You will note this curious fact, that very rarely indeed, so far at any rate as this country is concerned, is the matter so broadcasted of any conceivable natural interest to the people who are almost compelled to read it because they have no choice, the evil is so universally broadcasted. That is nine-tenths of the evil.

For my part, I welcome the Bill, and I welcome it even if I thought it more dangerous in other respects than it is, because I do think that it is an honest attempt to meet a great and demoralising evil. My only doubt about the sections relating to the Press, Sections 8 and 15, is whether they go far enough. So far as Section 15 is concerned—that is a section dealing with the publication of certain proceedings in court—I may be permitted, perhaps, to observe that my own experience goes to confirm me in approval of the section so far as it goes. It happened that, some years ago, I had occasion professionally to attend very frequently, in fact, every day for a period of time in the Probate and Divorce Division of the High Court in London. I know there was a considerable difference of opinion amongst the men attending the court in the matter of the publication of these cases. My experience there convinced me that no possible good could be served by the publication of the sort of matter which I was obliged, in my professional capacity, to listen to in that Court.

resumed the Chair.

My only doubt when I read the Bill was whether this section went far enough. I listened with interest, assent and pleasure to the statement of the Minister on that subject, because, if I understood him correctly, the effect of the section, taken as a whole, would be to make impossible in this country the publication, not merely of the deleterious matter mentioned in sub-section (2), but also similar matter which occurs, as it frequently does occur, in other legal proceedings, such as murder trials and so forth. If we can get that stuff excluded it would be an exceedingly good thing. I would like, if it were possible, to strengthen the Bill; I would like if words could be found to do that in Section 8, because there one of the faults I have already indicated is, to my mind, that it is too exclusively concerned with what is called sexual morality. I am not sure that that is what needs to be guarded most carefully in this country. After all, it is not the sin to which Irishmen are most prone.

My own feeling is that there is an evil which it will be difficult to get at under the definitions of the Bill, but which I should like, nevertheless, to get at if I could. I regard it quite as demoralising that we should have the attention of the people continually directed to crimes of violence, to sordid, ugly, vulgar things, as to details, say, of divorce trials. I know it is an extraordinarily difficult subject, but I do think it is worth considering whether, if we are really anxious to purify the Press of this country, more might not be done in that particular direction.

I come now to another matter. What I have said up to the present relates entirely to those sections of the Bill which deal with newspapers. There is another portion of the Bill not entirely separate, of course, but the portions are easily separable, which relates not to periodicals but books. I say quite frankly that I think the Government would be well advised if they had confined their attentions to the first matter and left books out altogether. I do not suggest that it would be entirely logical. I am quite aware that it would be very easy to put the poser: "Why, if people are not allowed to publish such matter in a fugitive form in a periodical or daily newspaper, can it possibly be right to allow similar matter to appear in the more permanent form, bound between the covers of a book?" My answer to that would be, and this is an old legal phrase familiar to the Minister, de minimis non curat lex. I doubt very much if it is worth while, and I found that opinion partly on my own observation and partly on the report of the Committee on Evil Literature. It is quite true the Committee on Evil Literature does not confine its recommendations simply to the Press, but I think anybody reading it will notice that the whole accent and stress of the Committee's report is in the direction of newspapers and not of books. Why that should be is, I think, fairly obvious. Nine-tenths, ninety-nine hundredths of the evil is got at if you can purify the Press. And why? The enormous powers of the newspaper Press, the immense sums of money at the disposal of the proprietors, enable them to push their papers into every workman's home, into the remotest farm house, the poorest labourer's cottage in the furthest part of the country, and nobody can escape them.

But when you come to deal with books you are faced with an entirely different aspect. Go up and down the countryside and in how many provincial towns, even of a considerable size, will you find books? There must be tens of thousands of houses in this country in which no book is to be found, unless it be a prayer-book, or possibly an old copy of "Knocknagow" or Moore's Melodies. I seriously doubt, that being so, and I believe it is, whether the extreme difficulties into which you are going to get, and everybody will admit there are difficulties, can be overcome. When you come to deal with books as distinct from newspapers I very much question whether the game is going to be worth the candle. It needs no very great equipment of knowledge or training to tell the character of newspapers. You cannot but judge the general character of a newspaper. Its headlines glare at you. When you come to deal with books it seems to me you are in a very different position indeed. I do not know who you are going to get as censor. The Minister is very optimistic about his censor, and I hope he is right. I would be very optimistic if I thought the censors were going to act without pressure. They are going to have, as the Minister admits, most extraordinary and difficult functions when they come to deal with books, and there will, I am afraid, inevitably be a suspicion as to the kind of pressure which will be brought to bear upon them. A friend of mine said to me the other day that he did not want to have his literature dictated to him by the Catholic bishops. I replied to him that for my part I was not in the least afraid of the bishops; that what I was afraid of was busybodies. I have heard the Minister discourse with great power and learning, and in a very interesting manner, upon the procedure which is laid down, as I understand, for the Congregational Index. I have heard him explain how a book must be condemned, not on account of casual passages but on account of its whole tenor and tendency—I think he used the words ex professo—and I have heard him say what care—and I am sure truly it is so— is taken before a book is condemned. I only wish I could be sure that we could have so careful an examination here, or so competent a body to make the examination. After all, a man cannot become a prince of the Church without being in a very true and real sense also a man of the world. I wish that we could say of the people appointed, and the people who will be masters of our masters that it will be equally true, because, as I say, they will have most difficult things to distinguish; they will have a most difficult task, and most difficult decisions to make. You must have some regard for the people to whom books go. How in the world are you going to do it? It is obvious that it is dangerous and improper to place these books in the hands of young persons. A book unsuitable to be left about casually on the table may well be a book essential to the student, and not merely essential to the student, but necessary for the information of an ordinary man of any sort of decent cultivation.

Let us take, for example, four books and apply the test to them. I cannot imagine how they would be dealt with. I will take two English and two French. Take a story like "Boule de Suif," by de Maupassant; take that remarkable play, "Les Trois Filles de M. Dupont," not books pour les jeunes personnes; take the play "Mrs. Warren's Profession," by Bernard Shaw, or take, finally, the last book of the same author "The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism." Three of these works that I have mentioned deal not merely incidentally but I suppose ex professo, at any rate have as their subject matter, very scandalous and delicate subjects—prostitution and venereal disease. The third deals, at least incidentally in a passage or two at any rate, with these matters, and in addition has, if I remember aright, a page or so relating to birth control. There are four books, plainly not books that would be suitable for general circulation and general reading, and yet books, every one of which in my judgment it is essential that a man should read if he is to have any idea of what the world in which he lives is like, books, in spite of the subjects, every one of them, and the three first mentioned particularly, in my judgment at any rate, of the highest literary standard, books which, to my mind it would be scandalous to exclude.

I will not delay the House further. I have made rather a longer speech than I intended to make, but I have suggested what appears to me to be some of the difficulties of the Bill. I do not know whether the Minister will accept amendments to exclude books altogether from the Bill. I fear that he probably will not. If he would, all the difficulties I feel would, to all intents and purposes disappear. If he will not, then we must certainly do our best to secure here and there if we can, that, while doing a great good, as I think this Bill will do, we shall not do, if we can help it, even a little evil.

I rise to confirm as strongly as I could the statements made by Deputy O'Connell as to the problem with which the Committee that was appointed in connection with evil literature dealt, and as to the manner in which they dealt with that problem. Everything that Deputy O'Connell said I can confirm strongly. The problem was simply evil literature, with its degrading effects and resultant spread of sexual immorality. In his very able introductory speech the Minister made it, I think, perfectly clear that, in so far as the first three parts of the Bill are concerned, the problem the Bill proposes to deal with is also the problem of evil literature in so far as it concerns sexual immorality. Now, if these two things had been made clear earlier. if they had been realised earlier, I do not think we would have had anything like the two extremes of criticism to which the Minister has drawn attention. I am sure we should not have had a thing which I sincerely deplore, that is, from various quarters the suggestion that this was a sectarian Bill and that the matter had been dealt with on sectarian lines. I state most strongly that in so far as the Committee was concerned it did not deal with the question in any such way. It dealt with the problem of sexual immorality. It was not led to any of its conclusions or its recommendations because of the fact that any particular Church or denomination held particular views. I do not think that on a question of this kind there is any difference between the Churches as to the view they take of evil literature. I should take it as a slander on the Church to which I belong, for instance, if it were to be said that it was not just as much interested in this question of evil literature as any other Church or denomination. I believe that all the extreme critics on both sides would be almost unanimously united in this, that they would wish to exclude evil literature which tends to promote sexual immorality. I take it as an exaggeration that it should be stated on one side, as it has been stated, that critics of this Bill are those who wish to flood the country with that kind of literature. I take it as an exaggeration on the other side also to state, as has been stated, that those who are promoting this Bill wish to curtail the rights and liberties, in all directions, of readers and writers.

Speaking as representative of a University standing for freedom of thought and liberty—not licence— liberty and freedom of expression of the truth, as it seems to the individual, liberty of expression to an author to express his opinion—even though that opinion may be contrary to the convictions of the majority—I come to say what I have with reference to this Bill.

The Minister, as I say, made it quite clear, and said if it was not clear already—and I think it is not clear—that that was the purpose of the Bill, that he was ready to consider amendments which would make that clear, namely, that the Bill has to deal with evil literature in so far as it increases sexual immorality. The evidence before the Committee was, as Deputy Law has stated, that by far and away the greatest evil was being done by newspapers. We could not put a figure on it, no doubt. It would be almost impossible, I think, to compare the amount of evil done, as represented to that Committee, by newspapers with that done by books. We are not, I think, a book-reading people. We are very much of a newspaper reading people. The evidence that was brought forward showed and proved to us a perfectly astounding circulation of newspapers, that almost everyone would agree were harmful—newspapers which simply set themselves out to describe crime, particularly sexual crime, with every kind of disgusting detail; newspapers which serve no useful purpose, without any literary merit, for which anybody with an educated mind would care one jot. The Committee came to the conclusion unanimously that if such circulation of these newspapers could be prevented, by far and away the greatest part of the evil done in the country would be put an end to. True, the Committee did not stop there but went on to point out with very great care that it was only in attempting to deal with the remaining small portion of the evil that the difficulties really began. I would ask every Deputy to read with care the particular section of the report which deals with books, because I think that section expresses very well many of the difficulties which arise and to which attention has been drawn in the discussion which has taken place. I would draw attention to two or three short extracts—I am not sure if they are the ones which were quoted by the Minister or by some Deputy:—

The censorship that should protect the young from literary influences pernicious to the immature is the censorship exercised in the home, the school, and through the spiritual director.

Whatever we may try to do in legislation, I think we shall all admit that nothing will make up for proper instruction at home and in the school— proper culture, proper education. Something that will discourage and show the folly of this kind of taste will be far more important in doing good in the country than any legislation.

But literature has never been restricted in any country to writings that meet the standard to be observed in works intended only for the youth and the maiden. And in fact unless all the agencies of moral culture are constantly and effectively employed for the maintenance of a healthy public taste amongst the young it is certain that no effort of the State can prevent the public taste from becoming corrupt.

At the conclusion of that section of the report, it goes on to state that the kind of books which ought to be suppressed by any censorship board that was formed, and which they could be reasonably called upon to suppress, were books of a specifically limited kind:—

books written with a corrupt intent, or aiming at notoriety and circulation by reason of their appeal to sensual or corrupt instincts and passions, and to discriminate such books from those having a purely literary aim in view but which, as part of their reflection of the world admit representation of the vices or the passions that exist. Many of the books which are stated to be in circulation in Ireland and of which witnesses complain have no literary merit whatever. They are frankly pornographic and rely upon their pornographic matter for their appeal. A censorship committee that would deal with undesirable newspapers should be competent to restrain such obviously evil literature.

If the powers of the censorship committee in reference to books were restricted, as the committee that sat on this matter recommended in their report. I do not think many of the critics of the Bill could have taken up that position. If the statement made by the Minister and the principles he laid down as to the carrying on of the work by this board of censors were made part of the Bill, I think the same words would apply, that they could be made part of the Bill. But the question at once arises: are they in the Bill? Is there anything in the Bill to indicate that the board of censors is to act on the lines which the Minister laid down? I would not have any fault to find with the statement he made of the manner in which the censors ought to act, but is it in the Bill? I think the Minister made the case that I want to make when he said at the conclusion that their powers could be abused. Surely, it is not beyond our power here to do the good we want in this matter without, in a perfectly unnecessary way, conferring powers upon a board which we do not expect them to exercise, which we never hope they will exercise and, in fact, which we all, I think, hope most strongly they will not exercise. Surely it is possible to devise some form of words which will make it clear that the censors shall have powers which we expect them to exercise and not other powers. The Minister may say it is for me to suggest those words I do not think so. I think it is for the Minister to suggest them. He went very near suggesting them, I think, when he gave us his illustrations as to the kind of book which should be banned by this board of censors, books that were ex professo immoral.

Who wants them? Books with no literary merit and written for no other purpose but deliberately to inculcate immorality. If we could narrow the powers of the censors in reference to books in that way, where would this criticism that is being made about the powers of the Bill be? But it is because the Bill does not so narrow them, because it leaves the powers of the censors of such a kind that they might be abused, that we have to face this criticism. To my mind the Bill does not follow the report in that particular manner. The report clearly contemplates four things—fugitive literature, newspapers and publications of a fleeting kind, here to-day and gone tomorrow. Books are in quite a distinct and different category. At the end I shall say a few words on the sections in Part III. of the Bill, referring to judicial proceedings, and also on the question of birth control.

With Deputy Law, I think that we could do nearly all the good we want to do, without any risk whatever, by confining the Bill to fugitive publications only, and there would be no difficulty, no risk and no turmoil of criticism. But if we decide to enter on the other, I think we ought to do it by a Bill which clearly indicates that fugitive publications are to be treated on a different basis from that on which books are to be treated. I do not see why we should not give our board of censors very limited and restricted powers, as the report suggests, in dealing with books, and much wider powers in dealing with these fugitive publications. We need not tie them down to anything like the same extent, but could give them almost a free hand in that. Any board of censors that is likely to be appointed will not, in the case of newspapers or publications of a transient kind, do anything that will offend the wishes of right-minded people. I feel perfectly certain of that.

It is true to say, and the Minister is quite correct in saying it, that everything does depend upon getting a right board of censors. If a right board of censors is got. those evils that are feared will not arise, but I do not think that is a sufficient justification for passing the Bill in a form which gives the board of censors greater power than we need give. There would be another way in which the matter might be dealt with so far as books are concerned, because the initial sections in Part II. of the Bill are entirely concerned with the sale or distribution or the offering for sale or distribution of publications. It is that which is made an offence with regard to private reading, where individuals have a strong right to say that what they read is a matter for their own conscience—where individuals elect to read books which might be banned by the board of censors. Acting on the strict lines that I have indicated, it is quite an arguable thing to say that the State has a right to prevent them doing anything to lead other people to read those books, but it is quite arguable also to say that so far as their consciences are concerned in their reading that the State should not interfere. Therefore, I suggest another line on which modification might take place. If the Minister will not accept the suggestion that I have made with regard to the action of the board of censors, and of separating their powers with regard to newspapers and books, I think he ought certainly to modify the clause in the Bill which prevents the importation by the individual of a book that he desires solely for his own use. According to the Bill, apparently, at any rate, such a book would not be allowed into the country at all if it could be prevented. Whether it will be prevented or not is quite another matter.

I am not at all sure that the section in the Bill which apparently allows of permits being obtained by individuals with reference to books would cover the case of a person anxious to get instruction upon certain matters, and desiring, for definitely good reasons, a book which had been banned, seeking to be allowed to bring that in for his own purpose, because the section which refers to permits begins by saying that permits for the sale or distribution and of other things with reference to books may be given. It seems to me to be doubtful whether that section, as it stands, would permit of a permit being given to an individual who merely wanted a book for his own purposes. I will give an example of what I mean. Many reports made by committees of investigation on most unpleasant matters might have attention so drawn to them as to come under the ban of the Committee, and yet an individual interested in some sociological question might wish to consult the report merely for himself. I do not know that he could under this Bill as it stands. Therefore, I would suggest that if a book is required, even a book that is on the list, by an individual for his own use, that its importation should not be banned. As it is at present it seems to me to be and I think the Minister said it was by Section 14. I would much prefer the other plan as being far simpler and really doing all the good that is wanted. I have tried to confine myself to general points though there are many details which it seems to me could be dealt with. There are many details which I hope will be considerably modified when we come to the Committee Stage, as obviously we shall. Some of them have been mentioned. I think there is a good deal to be said about the tenure under which the censors will hold office. I do not think it is a reasonable thing to leave in the Bill a loop-hole under which the Minister could remove one of his appointed censors from the board simply because perhaps he has given a decision of which the Minister disapproves. I think that the section which gives the Minister power to remove the censors during a term of three years ought to be very considerably modified. The question of procedure, what the board of censors are to report upon, and the kind of reports they make will also I think require very careful consideration when we come to the Committee Stage. As regards the number at present, I am much more disposed to say that a number greater than five would be advisable rather than that we should adhere to the number five.

On this question of birth-control I find myself in a very great difficulty in approaching it from the point of view of morality. It does not seem to me— I speak with very great diffidence on the matter—that it is one upon which I could presume to lay down a hard and fast line. I certainly would not presume to lay down and to come to a decision which would be applicable to other people, but that did not prevent me in the very least from signing the report which "made illegal"—and I draw attention carefully to the words —"which made illegal the indiscriminate circulation of propaganda" relating to this matter. So far I feel prepared to support the Bill, but I do so not on the question of general morality, but because I think the State is entitled in a matter of that kind to take action, and is bound to take action, in a matter which may vitally affect its own welfare in view of the propaganda and the magnitude of it. Considerable evidence was laid before the Committee in view of the probability of the kind of people with whom that propaganda is likely to be successful. I think it would have to be admitted that the only trend of it was bound to be something which would lead to decay and deterioration of the State. Therefore, I think the State is not only bound to take notice of it, but I think there is a great deal more than that.

It came forcibly under our notice that the way this indiscriminate propaganda was going on was disgusting to all decently-minded people, and more than that again that it was undoubtedly leading to the spread of sexual immorality, because it indicated that sexual immorality could take place without fear of natural consequences. It was clearly put before the Committee that that propaganda was being carried on not for sociological reasons, but simply that certain people might make a profit, and the result of it was a large spread of immorality in the country, and that probably the increase in sexual immorality was largely due to that propaganda. In view of these facts I take it I was justified in signing that Report, and I take it, justified in supporting the main principle of the section the Government have introduced into the Bill. Nevertheless, I think the Government have gone too far. They pay no attention to the care with which the Committee referred to indiscriminate propaganda. Any mention of the matter would not be covered by that term, as it seems to me in this Bill if a book presumes to touch on the question, to refer to it, that book is automatically banned, and not alone that, but it is an offence to bring it into the State and to sell it or to have anything to do with it.

How is the unfortunate publisher to know? Is he to be the censor? Has he to go through every book he sells and come to the conclusion that there is no paragraph, no sentence in it, which would bring it under the prohibition in the Bill? I think that is an impossible way of proceeding. It is no answer to say the publisher would get off the first time, for he would have equal difficulties with every book he tried to sell afterwards. The only way I see of meeting that objection satisfactorily is to include this provision as one of the functions of the censor's office. My complete plan would be to give your board of censors very restricted powers as to books in general. Allow them to prohibit books simply on specific reasons laid down by the Minister. Give them much wider powers with regard to fugitive literature. Very few people care very much about that. Give them wider powers still with reference to any book which may be brought before their attention as improperly referring to this question of birth-control in any undesirable way. I think that on those lines a Bill might be passed by this Dáil which would be a credit to the Dáil, and which would not be open to any of the criticisms or objections which are being brought regarding this Bill by many broad-minded and well-meaning people.

As has already been announced by Deputy Ruttledge, members on this side of the House intend to support the motion that this Bill receive a Second Reading. As ostensibly the reason of the Bill is to suppress literature which can be described as being indecent and evil, I think it is very unlikely the motion that the Bill be given a Second Reading will not be passed. It is our opinion that the Government has been too slow and too cautious in introducing a measure of this kind. It appears also from the speeches to which we have just listened that if this Bill is intended to deal with evil literature, and evil literature only, it is likely to receive the unanimous assent of the Dáil. If it is the principle of the Bill that evil literature shall not circulate in this State it is a good principle, and as such will, I think, not merely receive the unanimous assent of the Dáil, but the unanimous assent of the people of the country. It appears to us, however, that in framing the Bill the Minister has not succeeded in making it fit the problem; that in many parts, and in many important particulars, this Bill overlaps the problem and covers ground which should not be covered by a Bill of this kind. It is obvious that the main discussion in this Bill will take place not on the Second Reading, but on the Committee Stage, when efforts will, I hope, be made to remove from the Bill those sections which give rise to fears that the powers conferred by the Bill will not be used solely for the purpose of suppressing indecent literature.

When it was first suggested that a Bill of this kind would be introduced in the Dáil I was under the impression that the evil which was stated to exist was very largely exaggerated. Since, however, the Bill was introduced in the last session, I have made it my duty to make inquiries, and I find that the evil has been by no means exaggerated, and that there is in circulation in this country a number of newspapers in particular which make it a practice week after week to scour the police courts, to sweep the underworld of great cities, for the purpose of getting a supply of filth with which to feed the debased appetites of their readers. I have found that the evil does not exist to the same extent in regard to books, as has been stated by other Deputies, but it was quite obvious that the time is none too soon for the Government to interfere and to set up some machinery that would act as a sieve through which all the tide of imported literature would have to pass, and which would be effective in keeping out that portion of it which no decent person likes to think is circulating amongst our people.

I have said, however, that the Bill does not altogether fit the problem. There are many sections in it which, if amended or taken out, would result in an improvement. I would like to refer briefly to those which struck me in particular as being the most important. To any person who has been studying this problem and reading the reports available concerning it, it is obvious that one of the difficulties in securing good results from the existing law is the difficulty of securing satisfactory definitions of such terms as "indecent" and "obscene," and, therefore, the definitions which are given in this Bill are of particular interest. The Minister, in his opening remarks, admitted, I think, that the definition of "indecent" which was given here could be tightened up and, possibly, be improved by doing so. There appears to be some duplication of thought in the definition. It is obvious, of course, to everybody that sexual passion in itself is neither indecent nor immoral, not necessarily indecent or immoral. Therefore the phrase "calculated to excite sexual passion" may possibly be used, or could be used, to cover publications which would be perfectly harmless and which would not be worthy of being described as "indecent." In any case, that particular part of the definition appears to be unnecessary in view of the remaining portion of it, namely, "to suggest or incite to sexual immorality or in any other way to corrupt or deprave"—the words which would be necessary to secure power to the board to suppress any literature of a nature with which the Bill is obviously intended to deal.

There is also the matter of the size of the board. A board of five members is suggested in the Bill. I agree with Deputy Ruttledge that that number appears to be too small. The Minister in his speech, while indicating the complicated nature of the problem, said that questions arose which should not be decided by one or two individual minds. Yet it is actually proposed in the Bill that the questions which will come before the board can be decided by two members.

No. The board consists of five members, and it is necessary to secure the assent of at least four for the purpose of recommending the suppression of a particular publication. That means that any two members can prevent a recommendation in favour of suppression being sent to the Minister. It is our opinion that a board of nine members would not merely give an opportunity for making it of a more representative character, but would also remove the possibility of unwise decisions being arrived at. In this matter it is not, of course, the size of the majority or anything of that kind that really matters, but that a number of normal men should be convinced that certain action should be taken. We think it is better that those who want a publication suppressed should have to convince nine members, or two-thirds of that number, than that they should have to convince merely four. That, of course, could be pushed to an illogical conclusion, for it could be argued that if nine is a better number than five, eighteen would be a better number than nine. We have to strike a balance and see that the committee would be of such a size so that things would be done in a judicial atmosphere. We think that a judicial atmosphere would be preserved in a committee of nine and that it is more likely that public opinion would approve of decisions arrived at by a committee of nine than those arrived at by a smaller committee.

I would also like to refer to Section 7, which has also been referred to by each of the previous speakers. The Minister contended that the commonsense interpretation of that section differs from the legal interpretation. His view in that matter has been contested by Deputy Ruttledge. Certainly any individual who is not a lawyer and who reads that section would come to the conclusion that the board would be empowered to recommend the suppression of any publication which "tends to inculcate principles contrary to public morality." If it is possible that the section could be interpreted to give the board that power it is absolutely wrong and it shall be our duty to oppose it. The phrase "public morality" is altogether too wide. I have been trying to get an idea as to what the Minister exactly meant by it. Personally, I would have no hesitation in describing as "subversive of public morality" certain publications issued by the Party opposite during the last elections. I know that the official organ of the Party repeatedly, week after week, described as "contrary to public morality" a certain agitation which is in progress throughout the country in regard to land annuities. It uses, in connection with that campaign, the exact words which appear in the Bill. I find a reference in the Constitution to public morality. Article 9 says:

The right of free expression of opinion, as well as the right to assemble peaceably and without arms, and to form associations or unions, is guaranteed for purposes not opposed to public morality."

In view of all these facts it is obvious that a satisfactory definition of that term which would confine it to the avowed purpose of the Bill is not likely to be secured, and, if it cannot be secured, that term has to go out of the Bill. In any case I am not convinced that it is necessary. I say that the first portion of the section by itself should be adequate for the purposes of the Bill, namely, "whenever a complaint is duly made under this Act by a recognised association to the Minister to the effect that a book or a particular edition of a book is indecent or obscene" then the Minister may refer such complaint to the board. As I say, I think that that section, without the reference to public morality, would be quite adequate, particularly as the term "indecent" is fully described in Part 1 of the Bill. In relation to Part 3 which concerns the reports of judicial proceedings, I am inclined to agree with Deputy Law that in this particular the Bill does not fit by being too small, instead of too large, and a number of the items mentioned in subsection (2) of Section 15 which may be published are unnecessary on any grounds whatever, and could be a source of just as much evil as the actual reports of the evidence of witnesses. The general attitude which I and those associated with me have taken in regard to this Bill is that, as Deputies in Opposition, we should be very careful that nothing should get through this House which would be a source of public danger afterwards. In a Censorship Bill it is always much easier to go too far than not to go far enough, and we ought to be very careful to see that there would be nothing in this Bill which, by giving too much power to the board or too much power to the Minister, would tend to destroy public confidence in it and thus prevent the realisation of the very object which the Bill is designed to achieve. The effectiveness of the censorship which this Bill will establish will depend very largely upon the nature and the volume of public opinion that is behind it. That public opinion will not be strong if the fear exists in any person's mind that the power given by the Bill may be used for any other purpose except that of suppressing evil literature. We believe, however, that it will be possible to amend the Bill, to bring it into accordance with our ideas, on the Committee Stage, and as we are in thorough agreement with the principle of it, we intend to support the Second Reading.

It is a great relief to find that it has been possible to commence the discussion of this Bill in this House in a calm and reasonable atmosphere, an atmosphere different from that which some people have been trying to create in the public Press for the last few weeks. It is an unfortunate thing that a Bill of this kind always seems to give a splendid opportunity to a small class in this country who are always inclined to hold themselves up as possible raw material for persecution, and who are always inclined to take up the position of a famous character of Carleton, Neil Malone, who went around the country saying that he was blue-mouldy for want of a beating. It is unfortunate that in addition to that small class we have another small class, equally vocal, which is only too anxious to play the part of amateur inquisitor and act as prosecutor on every possible occasion. I am very relieved to find that there is nothing at all of that atmosphere in the debate on this Bill.

Personally, my attitude on this Bill is somewhat like that of Deputy Law. In one respect I fear it scarcely goes far enough, and in another respect I fear that it goes not so much too far as that it is not sufficiently clear what its purpose is and that it is somewhat too vague. In regard to the censorship of periodicals and newspapers, there seems to be general agreement that a measure of this kind, and even a stronger measure if possible, is highly desirable and overdue. I would be inclined to go further than the Bill goes in holding that there are other offences committed by periodicals in addition to offences against sexual morality, that there is a kind of tendency among even quite respectable periodicals, even among the periodicals of this very great and sainted country, where the Press is beyond all suspicion, to specialise a little too much in the collection and publication of details of all kinds of sordid crimes apart altogether from sexual crimes. Those of us who are not interested in the details of such crimes, and simply want to read the newspapers in order to find some gap in the armour of our political opponents, in order to find some statement by a member of an opposite party on which we can fasten, are compelled to wade through pages of headlines dealing with this horror that took place in Paris and that horror that took place in New York, or how this man has committed suicide in a slum in one city, or another man has cut his sweetheart to pieces in another city.

It seems to me that the tendency to collect and broadcast details of that sort of horror is in a way worse than, for instance, the publication of news of divorce court proceedings might possibly be. The publication of such news produces a kind of fundamental demoralisation which very easily leads to and strengthens that other source of demoralisation with which this Bill is intended to deal. There is always a close connection in actual fact between crimes of a sexual kind and crimes of cruelty, and I believe that the newspapers of this country and the imported newspapers, which devote a large part of their space to the publication of details of crimes of cruelty and violence, are doing a good deal to lay the foundations for a later development in the direction of sexual crime. I would be very glad if it could be found possible to extend the Bill so as to take in that sort of offence. It seems to me that a great deal of the modern cheap newspapers, which are circulated so widely and which are backed by powerful financial organisations, are a terrible disgrace to modern civilisation, not alone because of the publication of divorce proceedings, but because of the tendency they have to specialise in the publication of the more sordid details of ordinary life.

It is a difficult matter to frame any clause which would extend the Bill in that direction. It is very difficult to frame a clause which would not go too far. The trouble is that if you try to define that particular kind of crime and not go beyond that, you run the risk of punishing things which in themselves are quite innocuous. For that reason, I would be willing to leave the Bill as it stands in that respect, in the hope that at some future date it will be possible to extend its provisions. As Deputy Lemass points out, it is better always, in the case of a Bill like this, to go slowly at the beginning. If we are able to deal with the one great evil, with which the Bill was designed to deal, it will be a very valuable achievement. Later on it may be possible to extend the Bill in the direction I have indicated if in the meantime the Press itself has not taken it into its head to improve and to cease from the infliction of such news as I have referred to on the public.

On the other hand, when we come to the section of the Bill which deals with books I am rather at a loss to know what exactly the purpose of the Bill is. I am rather at a loss to know whether the Minister intends that this Bill should take the place of the existing law in regard to the censorship of books. It seems from what the Minister said and from what I know otherwise, that there do exist at the present moment very considerable powers which are regularly used for dealing with publications that may be called indecent or obscene. I think in actual fact the police, the customs officials, and the postal authorities in this country do take action in the case of indecent and obscene publications. If the Minister's intention is to substitute for the existing machinery for dealing with that kind of book, the machinery of recognised associations and the Censorship Board, I am not so sure that there is any great advantage in the substitution. I am not so sure that the new machinery will not turn out to be more cumbrous and, in some ways, more dangerous than the old. If it is the Minister's intention to go further than he has power to go under the existing law, I should like to know what exactly are the limits beyond which he does not intend to go under this section. I should like to know if it is his purpose to go further than the prohibition of indecent and obscene publications as it is carried on at present. What limit does he intend to set to his activity?

It seems to me that the whole difficulty in this question of dealing with books is where exactly you are going to stop. Foolish people sometimes say that you can deal with books on the same principle that you deal with films. But the principle on which you deal with films is that all films are prohibited and that a certain number of licensed films are allowed. If you are to deal logically and thoroughly with books you must adopt the same principle. You must say that all books are, on principle, prohibited and that only a certain number of licensed books are allowed. If you do not adopt that principle, it is difficult to know where exactly you are going to stop between that and simply stopping books which are obviously indecent and obscene and which can be dealt with by the police.

I am very much afraid that the result of this section will be that under the authority of this Dáil a list of prohibited books will be produced which will make a laughing-stock of this country. I have been reading a list of books which are prohibited in Canada and I certainly cannot say that that list of books is by any means a credit to the Canadian Government or whoever is responsible for its production. It includes one book, for example, which cost something like £10, and is almost unobtainable. In addition to that it is a very great work of literature and should not be prohibited in my opinion on any account. The list includes another book about which a great deal of noise is being made in this country —the work of a Dublin man. Personally, I consider the agitation in regard to that as being largely carried on by people who have never read it and who have acted in the most unfair way towards it. The list also includes books like certain works of Balzac and de Maupassant. I fail to see how any authority should fasten on to two or three books of Balzac and de Maupassant and let pass all the thousands of bad books which anyone could easily name. If you are going to stop Balzac what about Juvenal? You can get translations of Juvenal, Aristophanes and Apuleius to mention only the sort of bad books with which I might be more familiar. The fact is that if you have a list of prohibited books running into thousands of pages there will still remain numberless books which anyone who wants a bad book can buy and read. You cannot draw up an exclusivs list of bad books unless you act on the principle that all books are prohibited and that only a certain number are allowed in.

There are other considerations raised by this matter of books which are very important. I do not know whether it is the intention that objection to a certain book should be a public objection or whether the public should know that certain books are under consideration by the board. In that case I should like to raise a point which is of some importance. Suppose there are two books, both on the border line of the definition in the Bill, one of which is just over the border line, we will say, and the other of which is just on the right side of the border line. Suppose one of the books is prohibited and the other is not. The immediate effect will be that the book which is not prohibited and which is, for all practical purposes, as bad as the prohibited book will be bought in thousands, will get a fine, cheap advertisement and will do as much harm as the book which has been prohibited. I fail to see how you can lay down any reasonable principle to apply to the censorship of books once you go beyond the existing law. I should like the Minister to explain whether it is simply his intention to substitute one procedure for another, and, if so, what are the reasons which lead him to think that this new procedure will not be more cumbrous and will not in fact, in the way that I have pointed out, do perhaps a great deal more harm than the present procedure.

I noticed in reading the reports of the Evil Literature Committee that it can certainly be said that the Committee was by no means enthusiastic in its recommendation that books should be included in this Bill, and I would make an appeal to the House to consider carefully the various dangers that it is running before it does include books in a Bill like this. You have first of all the danger that this country will make itself look foolish, and do no good, and secondly, the danger that you will simply succeed in giving an advertisement, both inside and outside the country, to certain books which perhaps do not deserve to be censored at all, as possibly many of them, about which an agitation was carried on, do not deserve to be censored. You will be, on the one hand, giving an advertisement to certain bad books, and, on the other hand, doing an injustice to the works of certain authors at the bidding of a small number of cranks.

I do not believe that the censorship of books is really possible in any practical sense of the word, and I would certainly for one be very much relieved if this whole matter of books were removed out of the purview of the Bill altogether. If it is not, I should certainly like to see a much clearer definition in the Bill of what it is intended to do with books. I do not think it is sufficient that the Minister should lay down in the Dáil what his opinion is. I think it should be laid down fairly and definitely in the Bill that a definite kind of book will be prohibited.

In that respect I should like to deal with the definition of indecency. I do not want to enter into the question with the Minister whether or not that definition, as it stands, commits the Dáil to the Manichean heresy and the Albigensian heresy. I certainly say it commits the Dáil to a very foolish statement, and it is a statement which I for one would not like to see go out from the Dáil enshrined in an Act. Of course there is this much to be said, that it is not the Minister's statement or the statement of the draftsman. It is a statement actually taken almost word for word from the report of the Evil Literature Committee itself. The Committee took the definition given a long time ago, I think in 1908, by a distinguished public servant, and embodied it in its report. That definition included some phrase to the effect that anything calculated to influence passions should be regarded as indecent. That is, of course, obviously the source of the statement in the Bill. There is that much to be said for both the Minister and the draftsman, that this rather ridiculous definition goes back to a more remote origin.

Coming to Section 7, the Minister has explained that the second part of that section, from line 45 down, "or tends to inculcate principles contrary to public morality," is to be regarded as ejusdem generis of what goes before. If that is the case, why is it necessary to have that half paragraph at all? It is exactly the same meaning as the phrase "indecent" or "obscene." Why put it into the Bill? It is bound to give rise—no matter how it is interpreted, even if the censorship committee has to seek the advice of lawyers and get a legal interpretation—to a great deal of uncertainty, as it has given a good deal of material already to the would-be prosecutees and prosecutors of the public Press. If we are going to have a censorship whether it is a censorship of books or a censorship of papers, we should certainly see that these two clauses are radically improved. I suggest it would be a sound principle that in whatever way we may define indecency we should allow that definition to remain all through the Bill, and that we should not expand it or elaborate it in any way whatever. We should define indecency in one clear and, if possible, brief set of terms, and apply that term right through the Bill. We should have nothing to say about public morality or what is injurious or detrimental to or subversive of public morality, or anything of that kind. It is very difficult to see what exact purpose this phrase serves in the Bill.

There is one other point that I would like to mention, and that is in connection with Part IV. I do not think I could be accused of holding a brief for the advocates of birth control, but, at the same time, this part of the Bill has given rise to a certain amount of misgiving. It purports to deal with the books that advocate birth control, on a completely different principle from the rest of the Bill. It prohibits those books automatically, and it prohibits any book or periodical publication which advocates, or which might reasonably be supposed to advocate the unnatural prevention of conception and so on—that is to say that the police, in the first place. I suppose, or the Minister himself would have to act as judge in this matter, and if they do not, or, even if they do, the publishers and booksellers would have to act as judges and censors. That seems to me to be an impossible position. Even if we adopt Deputy Ruttledge's suggestion, which is a good suggestion, that the word "book" should be more clearly defined and that the description "book" should apply to the whole of the book, we would be still putting on booksellers the duty of reading through every word of certain books which only might contain two or three sentences, here and there, advocating these practices, Everyone knows there are innumerable books altogether harmless, but which do contain a sentence here and there which may be construed as in the nature of advocacy of birth control in some shape or form. I do not see how booksellers can be expected to carry out that part of the Bill, and I urge that Deputy Thrift's suggestion should be accepted, that that part of the Bill should be put on the same basis as the rest, and that books of that kind should be submitted to the censorship board.

I am very glad that it has been possible to begin this discussion in a reasonable atmosphere in which there has been no attempt to appeal to any sort of prejudice whether it be popular prejudice or the prejudice of small cliques. In considering this Bill we should remember that we cannot shelve our responsibility in this matter by referring books and newspapers to a small censorship committee. Everything that committee does, every folly it may commit, every injustice it may possibly do, will be the responsibility of this Dáil, and the Dáil should see to it, before setting up a body like that and giving very large powers in a vague way, that everything possible is done to safeguard both this committee and itself from the commission of either folly or injustice.

I rise to support the Second Reading of this Bill and in doing so I may say that I believe the censorship of obscene publications is long overdue. It is an indisputable fact that day by day and week by week and month by month, an exceptionally large amount of indecent literature is dumped into this country, which has a very adverse effect and a very demoralising effect upon the minds of the youth of this country. Now the editors of some of these cross-Channel papers seem to take delight in publishing and gioating over the details of immoral happenings not only in the underworld of England and elsewhere but also in what some people describe as society circles. I think the Minister is somewhat mistaken if he thinks that happenings of this description only take place in the back streets and slums. Deputy Tierney referred to the fact that some of these newspapers seem to cater for practically nothing but sensational happenings. In my opinion some of these newspaper editors are suffering from a disease which might be described if not in medical phraseology, at least in practical language, as "sensationalitis." Now quite unknown to parents and guardians these newspapers very often get into the hands of boys and girls and it is needless to point out the evil effects that immoral literature of that description has upon young undeveloped minds.

I have also heard cases in which adults have repeatedly got these cross-Channel papers described as immoral for the purpose of taking part in football or racing competitions. Having taken out the coupons from these papers, they cast them aside, with the result that they get into the hands of young children, with very bad and undesirable effect. Deputy Law, in the course of his speech, referred to the fact that while he would like to see a Press censorship, he would not like to see a book censorded. That statement struck me as funny, coming from Deputy Law, who until quite recently had been connected with a newspaper. He quoted cases of a few books of high literary standard as examples of the kind of books that should not be censored. Deputy Tierney did the same. I admit there are books of that description, but I think it will be admitted by Deputies, and by everyone else, that there are a large number of immoral and indecent publications that should be censored and that should come under the terms of this Act. Deputy O'Connell referred to the report of the Committee that was set up to deal with the whole question, and he pointed out that this Committee recommended that the board of censors should be composed of anything from nine to twelve. The Committee put forward a very strong case as to why the board of censors should be composed of that particular number. The Minister, in outlining the Bill, said he thought that the board of censors should be five in number, and that that was the correct number to compose it, and he went on to state that there would be no great difficulty in getting five men suitable for that board. I put it to him that if he was desirous of following out the recommendations contained in the Committee's report it would be quite as easy to select nine or a dozen men capable of acting upon this particular board. It is also laid down in Section 7 (3) that if this board of five censors are to make any recommendation or any complaint to the Minister in regard to any book or periodical or picture, four must be in favour of making such recommendations. That means a majority of four to one. As Deputy Lemass pointed out, if two so desired, they could bring about an effect altogether different from what this Bill is intended to do.

Now I believe that those are anomalies which should be rectified and which, I hope, will be rectified on the Committee Stage of the Bill. As I have said, I rise to support the general principle contained in this Bill, because, in addition to standing for the uplifting of the people on social, physical and economic grounds, we on these Labour Benches also stand for their upliftment from the moral viewpoint. Personally I believe in a well-ordered State, and believe that the State should take steps to protect the moral well-being of its citizens.

I do not suppose any single Deputy is more anxious to do what he can to prevent the youth of the Saorstát in any way from being corrupted by evil literature than I am. Having said this, I deplore the fact that the Minister brought in the Bill in its present form. If he brought in a Bill dealing with Section 3 and Section 4 he would have my heartiest support. In the first place, I support most heartily the restrictions placed on the reports of judicial proceedings. Even as far as Section 4 is concerned, I support in general terms what he has laid down with regard to the publication of books dealing with contraceptives. I must say this puts me in somewhat of a difficulty. I am faced, first of all, with the position that many of the midwifery and gynaecological books contain references to conditions under which the use of contraceptives would be indicated, whether for physical or health reasons. It is necessary that these precautions should be taken, but I am so much impressed by the fact that the general use of contraceptives would lead to such an extension of sexual immorality that, therefore, I support the proposal as it stands in the Bill. I have no hesitation also in supporting most heartily Section 18, although some of my colleagues in the College of Physicians thought that this would interfere very much with them. The proposals here are to put down the advertisement of the treatment of venereal disease. These advertisements used to be posted up in every urinal, handed into the areas of private houses, and stuck on every hoarding. All that has to be put an end to, and that has my most thorough support. But again, I have to make some objection to this in detail. There are contained in medical journals indications for the treatment of venereal disease, and these indications vary from time to time. The methods of treatment, the drugs that are used, are improving from day to day, and, therefore, when advertisements of this nature appear in medical journals we have the greatest apprehension that they might be interfered with in any way.

It is not in the Bill.

I have tried to point out that it is not stated they are not interfered with. I also support most heartily the section which deals with the prohibition of indecent pictures, but when I come to the second part of the Bill I find myself in general terms agreeing with what has been said by Deputy Law, and with the part of the speech I heard from Deputy Tierney. I object most strenuously to the appointment of the censors' board on various grounds. The Minister is very optimistic, and thinks he will have no trouble in finding a board of what I call broadminded men. I think he will have very great trouble in finding a board of broadminded men who will take a broad view of matters brought before them. In that way, I think it is very probable that we will be ruled therefore by a set of cranks. I have the greatest possible objection, for the years I have to live, to having the books prescribed that I will be allowed to read by four or five cranks. I further object to the members composing the board not being required to read the books. That was one of the most astonishing things I learnt from the Minister. Is it not the case?

indicated assent.

In a more or less jocular way I was referring to the fact that he was going to make four or five men into a kind of sexually immoral creatures; that he was going to impose on them for their four or five years' service the reading of indecent or obscene literature, and that they would be practically occupied all the time in reading it. If the effect he talks about is so great on the community generally what will happen to those cranks who will have to read the obscene literature?

It is a case of making the punishment fit the crime.

It was while I made that statement that he said they will not have to read it. That seems to me far worse. Here are men to pronounce a decree on books they are not asked to read. They are going to be given a report from some society or association we know nothing about and in this report are to be included certain statements that are made in the book, and they are to decide on the merits of the book on that evidence alone. Not only that, but they are going to be allowed to make their decisions without any defence being put up on behalf of the authors or those responsible for the book. I do not think anything could be worse from that point of view, in my mind, and I think I am a sensible sort of creature. I do not think anything could be worse than setting up a board of cranks to decide whether the book is immoral or obscene without having read the book, and to make their decision without any reference whatsoever to the author of the book. I think that should be changed and that it would be wiser for the Minister not to have interfered with books at all. I am going to make a statement that perhaps will not be generally accepted in this Dáil—that I do not think the amount of sexual immorality is greatly increased by the reading of books in the Saorstát. I am going to say two things: that in my opinion sexual immorality is more prevalent amongst those who do not read books than amongst those who read them; and secondly, that sexual immorality is spread very much more widely by the use of alcoholic drinks than by the reading of obscene books. Remember, I am supporting clearly and definitely the proposal to deal with newspapers to which objection has been taken. I objected to newspapers which published every harrowing and obscene detail of all sorts of sexual cases. I am with the Minister in trying to put an end to that, if it is possible to do it, but I think he is going on wrong lines in trying to censor those books by the class of board I have suggested.

Deputy Law used an illustration of certain books. The first book that came into my mind when I thought of this was Thackeray's "Vanity Fair." There is a book which stands as a classic in English literature. One of the most admirable characters in that book is Becky Sharp. She was a most immoral person, and I have not any doubt that this board of the Minister for Justice when established would have no hesitation whatsoever in prohibiting the circulation of a book that is now regarded as a classic in English literature. I go further still and say that that book has done a tremendous amount of good. It was written for a purpose, the purpose being to show what comes to people who descend to the immorality that Becky Sharp descended to. There are other objections not without substance to this Board, that has been alluded to by me. The Minister himself, I think, is afraid that the very fact of putting a book upon a prohibited list is going to ensure for that book far more attention than it would receive otherwise. Nobody would know anything about the book if it was left alone, but once the book is placed upon the list you will have every person running to get it. It is an extraordinary thing that I found when a book had been mentioned four or five members of the Dáil rushed to get hold of it because it had been put on the prohibited list. Therefore, I say you are going to give a greater advertisement to these books by putting them on the prohibited list, and do more harm in that way than if the books were allowed to have their ordinary sale.

The Minister has stated also that he has not got any fresh powers. If he has not any fresh powers under this Bill why not go and exercise the powers that he already has to deal with these newspapers, advertisements and pictures and leave the books alone? The College of Physicians asked me to make perfectly sure that there would be no interference with the books in their library or with the free circulation of medical and surgical books. I know perfectly well that the Minister has no desire in the world to limit the books, but there is no knowing what these cranky people are going to do that he is putting in authority, no knowing what these societies and associations are going to do any more than what his wretched board is going to do. The College were anxious that a definition should be made of what public morality meant. The Minister has already told us that he is quite satisfied to leave it as it is, knowing that it means sex immorality, or he is willing for the future to speak of it as sexual immorality. As someone else stated, if that had been done at the beginning it certainly would have diminished a great deal of the disquietude that arose since the Bill was published. I thought I was not friends with the ladies since the little trouble we had over the Bill that gave them permission to serve on juries, but they have sent me, as I suppose they sent other people, a communication, and as there are very few representatives of the ladies here I think we ought to take some notice of the recommendation that comes to us from what is called "The Irish Women Citizens and Local Government Association." They suggest several things. One of the things they suggest is that if there is going to be a board—and I think it is quite right that they should ask for it—that they should get a show upon the board. I do not think the Minister mentioned that in his speech. I do not know whether he has any desire to turn women into the immoral characters that he is going to turn them into by making them read obscene literature for three or four years.

I think, with Deputy Thrift, that literature dealing with contraceptives should come before the board in the same manner as other literature, and that regard should be had to the class for whom publication is intended. That covers a good deal of ground. If the publications were merely intended for doctors to read, pointing out under what conditions it would be advisable that contraceptives should be used, there would be some difficulty in that matter. The last point I am going to make is this. I cannot for the life of me see the reason why an individual should not be able to call attention to any book he happened to read that would be of an obscene nature. He must take it to an association. If he is going to take it to an association who is going to decide? We have no knowledge that it is going to be discussed by the association or by anyone but a paid secretary or a person who takes upon himself a great deal more than he is able to carry.

I just want to repeat that so far as I personally am concerned I would like to support in the strongest manner every proposal that would prevent young people from being in any way contaminated, so that there would be a decrease of sexual immorality. I would support it in the strongest way, but my opinion is that there is not a great deal of mischief done from books and, I think, by giving so-called obscene books the prominence that you are going to give them by putting them on prohibited lists you will do more harm than good. I would even vote against the Second Reading of this Bill in order to get this thing made right, but if the Minister were willing to exclude the censorship of books from it I would support the Bill most willingly.

I think the Minister is satisfied from what he has heard that on general principles the Bill has the approval of the entire House. I also think that he will find that many amendments that may be suggested between this and the Committee Stage will be of a helpful nature rather than anything else. But, as regards books, I am largely in agreement with Deputy Sir J. Craig and other speakers, because, after all, since a very long time ago human frailties have formed the theme of most of the celebrated authors. The classics are full of allusions to which hypercritical censors might take exception.

Deputy Tierney has given at least one of them advertisement to-night. Shakespeare is not above reproach, and it will be very difficult for any board of censors to draw the line between writings of such people and the modern writers. I, therefore, think, with Deputy Sir J. Craig, that if the Minister would rely on the powers he had at present it might be better to leave the books out of the Bill. I do not want to say anything more now except this: that liquor prohibition in America has caused an artificial thirst, and I think you ought to look to it that the prohibition that is under discussion now does not cause a thirst for evil. After all, original sin was the beginning of us all. I hope the board of censors, when it is set up, will take this into consideration and make allowances for the weaknesses of human nature. If they do. I think they will find, if they try to lead opinion rather than drive it, they will be more successful in their efforts.

I am very glad this Bill has been introduced. It has been demanded by public opinion for a long time, and the need for it has grown more urgent with the advance of time. We have had the making of our politi cal and economic destiny in our own hands for the past six years, but our ideas of life and morality are dominated from outside and are reflected in the literature that largely circulates in this country and largely shapes its opinions on matters of general interest. It is high time that this dominating influence should be examined critically, that it should be controlled by means of a censorship, in so far as it affects vital subjects in the nation's welfare. It seeks to provide for a nation's standard of right and wrong in respect of the reading matter of the man in the street.

The Bill seems to me to need no defence. It is but a step in the realisation of that intellectual autonomy which has already had its counterpart in other domains of national expansion. It brings the Saorstát into line with other countries of the world which in self-interest exercise a controlling interest over the type of publications which are sold by the wayside or greet the eye from the advertisement hoardings. There are some people who pretend to see in the Bill an attack on the religious equality guaranteed by the Constitution. This point of view has already been countered in the public Press. It finds its answer in what has been done in other countries, so that I need not dwell on it further than to refer to the attempt to introduce sectarian bitterness into this Bill. It is alleged that educationalists and members of the medical profession would be seriously interfered with in research work. I have reason to believe that any omission in the Bill in its present form will be amended at a later stage to meet this or any other reasonable objection that may be made. This Bill may not be a perfect Bill but it will be accepted by all to be a most difficult one to frame. In my opinion, it is an honest effort to grapple with the problem and members of all parties will, I am sure, regard it in that light and will endeavour to make it an Act capable of bearing the heavy weight of criticism which its application in the experimental stage of our censorship is sure to evoke. There is in the Bill at any rate a determination to deal with a problem which is a very difficult one and I heartily support its Second Reading.

The Minister has introduced his child to the House and it is rather a thankless task to criticise it to its father's face. We all know what a very scrupulous man the Minister is but I fear his parental regard and feelings have blinded him to some defects in his offspring. He has told us that it is a wise, comprehensive and strong child. Comprehensive and strong, it is, I admit, and I hope that we will add to its wisdom as it goes through the Committee Stage. Perhaps we have taken this matter, I will not say too seriously, but perhaps we have looked at it from a false perspective. We think that such a thing as a Censorship Bill and the occasion for a Censorship Bill have never before occurred in the history of the world. At least, judging from some of the discussions I have read about this Bill, I would imagine that was the attitude of mind of some of the writers. History shows us that many nations wake up from time to time and discover they are going to the bad; that they are worse than their fathers and that their fathers were worse than their grandsires. There is a storm of conscience. We have thinkers, philosophers, satirists and finally legislators swept in. Something generally is done; a scapegoat is found and a culprit or two are arraigned and perhaps some laws are passed. But often these storms, like all storms, do damage and lead to undesirable consequences. It is hard to control the extent of their power. Deputy Tierney asked us to be careful not to make ourselves ridiculous in the eyes of the world. I think it was Macaulay who remarked that there was no more ridiculous spectacle in history than the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality.

Speaking for myself—though like most Irishmen I am sensitive to ridicule—I think we should face ridicule in a good cause. There are more serious things to guard against than ridicule and there are people who see in this Bill dangers to civic freedom, the danger that reformers in their eagerness to stem the downward torrent of the age either fail to see perhaps or deliberately disregard. There is a freedom which, so far as is compatible with the welfare of the State, so far as it does not affront or injure fellow citizens, the citizen of all free and democratic States should claim as his prerogative. There are honest misgivings that there will be an encroachment on such freedom as a result of the loose drafting of this Bill. The Minister's verbal assurances are comforting, but it is the written word that stands. I would like to see them in black and white in the Bill. These assurances do not absolve us from what I conceive to be our duty to make this Bill an effective instrument against the evil that we are all determined to stamp out and conquer, but at the same time to make it incapable of abuse. We should see that it keeps strictly to its aim and that it does not extend beyond the scope that the Minister desires to have given to it.

Previous measures, I have discovered, as the members of the House have discovered through the literature that we had been furnished with, have failed. The principal cause of failure was in defining certain terms, particularly the word "indecent." I think it was Deputy Tierney or Deputy Law who pointed out the history of that definition. I think it goes back ultimately to a very great jurist. The Minister knows it, I am sure. It goes back to a great jurist, only that he was careful enough to limit the indefinite supplementary words, "to corrupt and deprave," by words that made it perfectly clear that the words applied only to sexual matters—"to corrupt and deprave those whose minds were open to such immoral influence," were the words of Lord Justice Cockburn. As it appears in the present Police Act, the definition of the word "indecent" is quite ineffective. The Minister rightly determines that he should amend that definition. There I am with him.

Finding it hard to amend the definition, he took a step for which he has got a great precedent. The Minister was trying to define a special form of vice. A great philosopher tried to define virtue once. The definition is familiar to you. He described it finally as lying within the relative means defined by reason. That was a hard saying, as he realised, and he said later that it could be defined as a man of sound common sense would define it. The Minister's Bill consists of something like that. To me, at least, it seems the centre rib of the Bill is that it starts with the definition of indecent. Finding it rather hard to define that, the Minister then rests on an appeal to men of sound moral sense, namely, on an appeal to the judgment of the board of censors. I think that that is correct. That certainly commends itself to me, and I differ, perhaps, on that point with my colleague, Deputy Sir James Craig. But he does not imagine that the board of censors are infallible. He does not even claim infallibility for himself. They are only human, and there is the first blot that I see in the Bill. The Minister has wisely made their decisions not mandatory, but permissive on himself. I hope I am not impertinent in suggesting it, but I think that the Minister thought that on some occasion his judgment might be better than that of his censors, and I agree. Furthermore, he has reserved to himself power to make regulations to govern their procedure. I wish I could see some of these regulations in black and white in the Bill—the canons of criticism that they should observe, the principles on which they should determine whether a book is obscene or indecent, unworthy or undesirable, to be admitted into this country. I think we ought to be a little more explicit there. It will be hard to draft those rules, but the board will have to draw them up for themselves; they will have to get working rules. We ought to provide them with appropriate, sound working rules.

There are many points which I would like to touch upon in connection with the board of censors, but I will simply content myself with saying that possibly a board of nine, with a quorum of six, would be a better board than five.

The difficulty will be getting a full quorum; that is the practical difficulty. I do not know whether the Minister has foreseen that. He is going to arrange that he will select men who have leisure and who will always be ready to attend. I think it would be far better to pick out a larger board and have a quorum of six. With the larger board he will get a far bigger range of opinion and a wider experience. Now the definition of indecency does not commend itself to me, and I agree with those Deputies who think it ought to be improved. Similarly, I agree with Deputy Tierney in his suggestion that we should concentrate on one thing.

In Section 7 we find that books are to be condemned on grounds of indecency, or, roughly speaking, on advertisements that are contrary to public morality. In the definition in the beginning of the Bill the whole stress is laid on indecency, and I think that is sound. The Minister should not have brought in a supplementary notion, especially one of that indefinite type, later on in the Bill. I could not define public morality. If by public morality one means conventional morality, that may range from the most rigid ethics to the most trivial happenings in our daily life. Anything might come under the censors' lash on a loose notion of that sort. Years ago I remember a letter in the papers protesting against women riding bicycles in knickers as contrary to public morality. It is a very wide term. The Minister has promised to look into both that term and the term indecency, and, except he is convinced of their appropriateness, he will bring in modifications.

There is one thing I do not like in regard to the decisions of the board of censors. There is no appeal from those decisions. That does not seem to my mind consonant with ordinary equity. It will be urged that we are not trying a man, a citizen; we are trying a book. But you do try the author, and even the publisher, when you try the book, and you condemn them, and you affect them in their purses and their character. I think that may be another reason why the Minister has made the decisions of the board of censors only permissive. He might be able to correct a wrong that they would do in that way by over-riding their decisions. The general idea of the board of censors does commend itself to me as a good idea, provided that the principles and functions and scope are strictly defined in the Bill. But I am very dubious about the wisdom of these recognised associations. I think that that will lead to not merely unpleasantness, but will do a great deal to diminish the respect that we should have for the operations of a Bill of this kind. Mankind is naturally anxious to find out, to discover. They like nothing better than hunting for something that is hidden. When they are very young it is hunt the slipper, and when they are a little older they satisfy their instincts with comparative innocence by solving acrostics and cross-word puzzles. But they love hunting. Savage nations, you know, have periodical orgies of smelling out witchcraft, which they enjoy very much. Those are organised. Here the Minister is organising and recognising —well, the word "informers" is an obnoxious word and I will not use it for the gentleman who will fill the office, but he is organising delatores, and is going to stimulate numerous groups of them. I can see those associations, worked up to a white heat by friendly rivalry and puritan zeal, sending in denunciations to the Minister by every post. Why, they will see evil in everything. I do think it would be wiser to let denunciations come from any reputable citizen, or any reputable group of citizens, who will sign their names and give reasons, for the Minister's judgment. If he thought that they made a prima facie case he could send these denunciations on to his board of censors, and act or not, as he thought fit, on the decision of the censor. But I would not like to organise something—it may be wrong, but it so seems to me—like espionage, and I think it certainly would have a crippling effect upon research and reading.

Personally, I would resent any man dictating to me what I should read or should not read, and the effect of this group of hardworking enthusiasts will be, in trying to build a wall against evil, a wall to keep out what is foul and unclean, to build a wall that will cut us off from the wider world, from all movements of contemporary thought, and that I do not want. I think that there is a real danger there. I hope that the Minister will see his way to change his mind about these recognised associations. I have looked at them from several points of view, and from no point of view do they commend themselves to me. I wish that the Bill had been confined rather to fugitive literature, as Deputy Thrift has said. I believe that that would be the principle of the gentlemen who drew up that excellent report. I wish, also, that the last section of the Bill was treated in another way, or that the matter should be the subject of special legislation. It seems to me to be begging the question to assume that birth control necessarily comes under the designation of indecency. I detest the propaganda as much as any person in this House, and I am with the Minister heart and soul in blotting out of the country indiscriminate pushing of this particular method of interfering with birth. I think it is a danger to the young. But the question itself can be treated, and is treated, with decency in scientific books, and it is a problem of modern sociology which I do not think our honours research students—I do not mean schoolboys—should be wholly ignorant of. I am not to be taken as in any way in favour of what happens, I am assured, in the country at the present day.

The main blot on the Bill, to my mind, is its indefiniteness in some respects, and I think what the Minister meant by its comprehensiveness. I hope he will do something in Committee to repair that. I am not afraid, as I said before, of appearing ridiculous, but I would not like the Dáil to take a step that might lead to a serious slur on its name in history. Many years ago Socrates was tried, before a very large tribunal of men of sound moral sense, on a charge of corrupting and depraving, and he was condemned. I hope that that example will be enough to induce us to amend the definition that stands in the forefront of the Bill. I think we could easily find a better definition and a more effective definition than the one the Minister has adopted. Perhaps I have gone too minutely into the sections, but I am in hearty sympathy with what the Minister has explained to be the principle of the Bill, the determination to wash out. to delete from our society and from our country, the unclean and scabrous literature that has invaded it.

While supporting the principle of this Bill, I desire to present certain aspects of criticism already offered, and perhaps to offer one or two new points of criticism. It is pleasant to find all sections supporting the Bill in principle and to discover that it is not to be a sectarian measure and is not so considered by any Deputy. As has been said by several Deputies, a board of five is not, in my opinion, large enough. It will not give an opportunity for getting the opinion of educated public opinion in this country. It will give too much power to two members out of the five to prevent the banning of a book if necessary. Nine, the minimum suggested in the report of the Committee, would be a much better number, and of that six or seven should be required to assent to a recommendation of suppression of any book or paper. I like the principle of nomination because, if it were left to different bodies, societies or associations to elect members to this board, I fear it would be constituted largely of cranks of one kind or another, or extremists, and we want reasoned judicial opinion on this board and not extremists on either side.

With reference to the term public morality it should be—though I do not advocate these set terms—set out clearly that the reference is to public morality in matters of sex. Otherwise the term would be open to a very wide and dangerous interpretation. One point has not been referred to—at least, I did not hear it—but, of course, it is a minor point to be settled when fixing details of the administration, and that is to secure secrecy pending the decision of the Minister, for or against the suppression of any paper or book. Otherwise it is obvious the circulation would increase immensely in the meantime. Trouble has arisen in the interpretation of the word "indecent." and I was glad to hear Deputy Alton say that he intends to submit another definition when the matter is before Committee, because the purpose of legislation in England was defeated owing to the interpretation put on the word "indecent" in the courts. The Minister was afraid of evil results arising from having black lists of books. They have such a thing in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, and I do not think the danger is very great.

Much has been said about culture and the necessity for liberty. Liberty, of course, is essential to culture, but licence is not, and I sincerely hope this Bill is not intended to exclude literature. It is very hard to make regulations in these matters. Strong meat, roast beef and lobster, may not be good for children, but they should be in the national diet, and it should be distinctly understood by the board that the word "book" refers to pornography in the guise of literature, and that such immoral publications should be suppressed everybody will agree.

Deputy Law says he is not afraid of the verdict, for instance, of the Catholic bishops. There is no reason why anybody should be afraid of the verdict of the Church to which the majority in this State belong, because I believe it will not be denied by any section, that it preserved the classics for civilisation, even the poems of Ovid, some of which were considered so immoral that Ovid was banished from the Roman Empire, in which the standard was not very high. There was art in pre-reformation days, painting, literature, sculpture, architecture, and the Catholic Church has not in these matters been iconoclast. If we legislate for the good of the public health certainly it is the right of the State to legislate for the moral welfare of its citizens. We regulate food in many ways by Public Health Acts, and if rotten carcases and tubercular meat cannot be exposed for sale, because they will injure the health of the people, rotten publications should be equally suppressed because they will injure the moral health of the people.

Deputy Alton did not like the word "informers" in reference to certain associations, but he used what to my mind is a much worse term, delatores, and the signification they had in the late Roman Empire in any case. It is not right, he says, to dictate what one should read, still there are certain types of books that it is certainly right to dictate that youth shall not read. I am quite certain that regulations will be made that books of another nature will be admitted for the purpose of scientific research, for universities, lawyers, and anybody interested in statistics, or working on research in sociology, or other branches of science, and that no difficulty should be raised in the admission of such books for such purposes, but their general circulation should be banned. The same applies to works applying to birth-control. It is admitted and deplored by honest advocates of such in England that literature dealing with it has led to grave immorality amongst the young, and the circulation of such literature should certainly be prohibited in the Irish Free State. If experts and those engaged in research work want to get books dealing with that, I am sure a licence will be granted, but the prohibition should be very definite, that they cannot be circulated.

One other matter was referred to by Deputy Ruttledge, and that was a small legal point in Section 19, sub-section (2), which says:

The word "indecent," where the same occurs in Section 42 of the Customs Consolidation Act, 1876, and in Section 16 of the Post Office Act, 1908, shall have the same meaning and construction as it has in this Act, and the said Section 42 and the said Section 16 shall be construed and have effect accordingly.

Many cases have been tried under the two Acts referred to, and I do not see how you are going to interpret these terms in these two Acts without expressly repealing them. The Minister should make it clear whether he intends repealing them or not, or whether he is trying to dictate how those Acts shall be interpreted when cases come up under them in the courts.

There are, I think, some features in this debate on which we can congratulate ourselves. One is that it has not become a Party question. Deputies from all sides of the House have addressed themselves to it from the point of view of the working of the Act. The other is that there has been a general recognition of the fact that there are definite limitations to censorship. I need only quote Deputy O'Connell, who said that if the Bill goes too far it will defeat its object, and Deputy Lemass, who said it is easier to go too far than not to go far enough. I, having had a certain experience of censorship, know that Deputy O'Connell and Deputy Lemass are quite right. I knew some years ago how very inadequate censorship could be, because Deputy Little got through it. Under the censorship powers given by the Defence of the Realm Act new rules could be formulated at almost a moment's notice, and yet we could not defeat Deputy Little.

There will be horrible people wanting to impose vice upon us, people equal to Deputy Little in their industry and ingenuity and in their power of suddenly springing on us some new thing. Therefore, we should deal with this Bill from the point of view that censorship is an evil, and a necessary evil, but that it cannot do all that its admirers expect from it and that its opponents fear. You cannot create a definite rigid censorship that will cut out everything that you dislike. You may expand your definitions, though I think that on the whole the Fianna Fáil party's past definitions would not be expanded or contracted. You may increase your penalties, but there is no measure that anybody can propose that will definitely cut out and abolish evil literature. The more stringent you make the penalties, the greater the incentive to the literary bootlegger. It will be easier to put a thick volume of Voltaire in your pocket than to produce a dozen bottles of whiskey, and yet in New York bottles of whiskey appear as if by magic.

I do not want to argue the point at length, because Deputy O'Connell and Deputy Lemass have made this same point in advance. This Bill has been criticised from many points of view, but there has been very little constructive criticism. There has been no alternative definitions put forward, and the definitions in the Bill are not very good. I have read all the papers that quarrelled with the Bill, but they have not put forward a single alternative definition to that given in the Bill of "obscene or indecent" literature. The Minister for Justice already has the power to prohibit any book coming in that he considers indecent or obscene, and he can exercise that prohibition without applying to the Board of Censorship and without even announcing his decision. As a matter of fact, he does so in respect of quite a number of books. The only alteration in that situation that the Bill creates is that if the book gets in, having escaped the Post Office and the Customs Authorities, who are empowered to stop it, then the bookseller cannot sell it. This Bill does impose penalties on those who sell a book that has been prohibited, after consideration by the board.

For myself, I think that the procedure in the Bill is better than the existing procedure of Acts that are forty-two and twenty years old. The board can examine a book before a prohibition order is issued. I should like the Minister to consider whether he could not accept the procedure outlined in the Bill as an alternative to the powers he already possesses, but it is perfect nonsense to say that a sudden new power is being imposed on people in the Saorstát. The power already exists, and on the whole I think it is a power that should exist. There are books that might very well be read by men or women of experience, but that I would be sorry to see placed in the hands of my children and that I would be sorry to see in general circulation. That power already exists, and this Bill, so far as I understand it, does not limit the power of the Minister to prohibit the importation of those books, but it regularises and extends the power to those who sell books which have already been imported. That being so, and although there should be modifications in the Bill on questions of details and on the question of definitions, I think that the motion that the Bill be read a second time is one that should be supported.

The attitude of our Party here has been, I think, made very clear by the previous speakers from these benches. We intend to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, but personally I would feel far more satisfied in taking that step if we had not the experience we have just had in the case of the Cork Management Bill. Members will remember that because we believed the general principle of that Bill was right, and that it could be amended in Committee, we voted for the Second Reading and committed ourselves, so to speak, to the principles of the Bill. Here we have a precisely similar position. Practically every speaker I heard here to-night was agreed that there was an evil which it was our duty to combat, even though certain risks had to be run in the combating of that evil. We were practically unanimous, I would say, in combating that, but the Bill introduced by the Minister does not do what the majority here want to have done. I say that if a Bill like that, so loosely drafted, was presented by anybody on these benches, we would have the Ministers opposite talking about the mess, and all the rest of it, which we were guilty of creating.

If there ever was a case where it was the duty of the Ministers to be precise in their language and definitions it was in the case of a Bill of this kind. They had the experience that previous legislation was made abortive because efforts were not made to be precise in the language in which certain things were defined. Now we have a Bill which has excited, to my mind, a certain amount of criticism which is going to be damaging. If a Bill could have been introduced here, and I believe it could, of the kind I have mentioned, it would have got the almost unanimous support of this House. It would have behind it all sections of public opinion, it would have been effective, and some of the dangers we have to face now would have been avoided. A number of people have come to me privately and pointed out the dangers there were in this Bill. A number of them were members of a different faith to the faith I hold, and I could scarcely convince them that when this Bill came before the House the sort of debate we had here to-night would result. They got the idea into their heads that there was some special sectarian idea behind this Bill, and they imagined that it was intended to penalise them, whereas I understand that the popular demand has been for a Bill to which every man and woman of sound common sense would agree. That is the position.

When I said that no Bill that could be introduced by the Government could be too strong for my taste I certainly had in view that evil of which Deputy Tierney and other members of the House complained. We know quite well that the newspapers constitute the great bulk of the reading of our people at the present day, and that public taste has largely been depraved as a result of that. The evil that we see and deplore in that particular direction is practically entirely due to that press, and I felt that it was largely to prohibit what we may refer to generally as the Sunday papers that the Censorship Bill was to be introduced. The members on these benches have gone into the matter, like some other matters, in detail. We have the Minister here now and we want to know whether he is going to act like the Minister for Local Government has acted in the case of the Cork Management Bill.

Is this the last word of the Ministry as regards this Bill? If it is, I for one shall vote against it, but if, on the other hand, the Ministry are prepared, as they ought to be prepared, to take the assistance of all parties in this House in framing a measure to meet as far as possible the particular need we want to meet, we are satisfied, but if he is not, if he is going to adopt the rigid attitude the Minister for Local Government adopted in the case of the Cork Management Bill, then it is as well for us to fight this Bill at the beginning. Suggestions have been made, and we will do our best in regard to them in Committee if we get an assurance from the Minister that he has an open mind in this, and that the Executive are not committed to every line and every comma in the Bill. With that assurance we will vote for the Second Reading. I hope we will get that assurance. In Committee we hope to do our part in constructive suggestions, but if the Minister says that his definitions, and the rest, are going to stand we may as well fight this from the start.

The main point we are interested in is the question of the Bill being confined definitely to the question of evil literature on sexual matters. I wish we could widen the Bill so as to deal with the class of literature about which Deputy Tierney spoke, but I think it is going to be very difficult. As regards that definition we want to make sure that it will not be in the power of six out of nine and certainly not in the power of four out of five to tell us what public morality is, when that question of public morality is so wide and you get so many interpretations of its meaning that it could be abused. We want that term removed, or else restricted to the particular purpose for which I understand this Bill was to be framed to meet, that is, immorality in sexual matters. The Minister gave an explanation of the canons of legal interpretation which I did not understand. I believe there is no canon of legal interpretation which would conflict with ordinary common sense, and common sense will not read the particular passage to which the Minister referred in the way he wants us to read it.

I think it will.

I think, therefore, there ought to be no difficulty in framing this section in such a way that it will mean what the Minister says it does mean. We stand for a larger number. We stand for nomination. We have considered the advantages and disadvantages of nomination, and we have come to the conclusion that if we are to have a censorship board, and I am one of those who say the evil is such that we ought to have, then we should have a censorship board which will take a really rational view of this whole question, and there is a better chance of getting a balanced board by putting the responsibility on the Minister than by making him take whatever may be presented to him. We have read some of the suggestions put forward by women's associations, and I must say that I, for one, think this is a case where women ought to be represented. I think there is a very good case for having women on this board. As to the number that should be necessary to condemn a book, we have considered that, and the opinion of our Party has been that six out of nine should, if you have a properly balanced board, be the majority. I cannot think of a board of cranks at all in this matter. I do not think the Minister will, if nominations are left in his hands, simply pick out extremists on both sides and put them together on the board to quarrel over differences. I cannot imagine a man in a responsible position doing anything of the kind. If we are not going to have a board like that, the question arises, what number should be necessary? Our Party has debated it and has come to the conclusion that six out of nine ought to be sufficient. I, myself, might be disposed to go so far as saying that seven should be necessary, because, just as I anticipated fairly well the views that would be taken here on this matter, and as everything connected with it depends on the board, my belief is that if you get a reasonable board of men you will get them by a majority of six to three to exclude anything that ought to be excluded. I cannot imagine a body of nine men considering a book and by a majority of two to one agreeing to exclude a book that should possibly not be excluded. I believe, however, with others, that it is better in this particular case to be on the safe side, and I think we are likely to run greater risks of having matter excluded which ought not to be excluded than by running risks in the other direction. Personally I would not object to saying that there should be seven of the nine. We will not quarrel altogether with the Minister if he proposes that seven out of the nine should be necessary to exclude any particular matter.

We think it a pity that the main purpose of the Bill, as I conceive it, the main purpose in the minds of those who were asking for this Bill to be produced, should be endangered by what I would regard as almost wilful negligence on the part of the Minister or whoever is responsible for drawing up the Bill. Undoubtedly he had time enough to do it properly, and it should have been presented in a much more definite form than that in which it is now presented, so that when we come to vote on Second Reading we would know distinctly what we are voting for. At present, most of us are voting, not for what is here, but for what we hope to make out of the Bill. As I say, if our hopes are to be rendered as vain as those which we entertained in connection with the Cork Management Bill, we will find ourselves voting against this Bill when it is passing through Committee. I would be sorry to have that occur, as I believe that in this case, as in the case of the Cork Management Bill, there is a principle which could be properly worked out, but that the whole thing is going to be destroyed by bad handling. So here, I think, there is an evil which we could get rid of to a large extent without incurring the dangers that come from prohibition of any sort.

I have been tempted to speak on this as there is a general sort of impression that because we want to do certain things very definitely we are blind to the dangers which follow from prohibition. In the liquor matter we had Deputy Sir James Craig to-night saying that there is an evil, and that more sexual immorality follows from an improper use of liquor than follows from evil literature. When I was speaking on the Liquor Bill I was against giving any further facilities or making it easier for our people to fall in that particular direction. I have been in America and have seen the evils that follow from prohibition, the sort of evils suggested by Deputy Murphy. I would be very slow in this particular direction to advocate such action as might in this particular case lead to evils that would be of a similar character. I think, therefore, that we would be very wise in being very definite in what we are going to exclude, in doing that definitely, and trying to make it effective, and in trying to get such public opinion behind us that there will not be evasion, and that people will not wink at evasion because that is the position in the United States in regard to the liquor traffic. The whole idea of obedience to the law is being undermined by it. This Bill ought to be so restricted that you can effectively administer it and have behind it the whole force of public opinion. The Bill as it stands is not that type of measure, but it can be made so, and all I am asking is an assurance from the Minister that when it comes to the Committee Stage he will have an open mind, so that the faults in the Bill may be rectified.

At this late hour I do not propose to speak at any length, but, listening to this debate, it occurs to me as most extraordinary that the Minister for Justice at some stage within the last three or four years did not enforce the ordinary law which was there to be enforced, for, if it were properly enforced, it would have rendered to a considerable extent the introduction of this Bill unnecessary. I would like to know how far the ordinary law has been enforced and why it has not been able to stop a great deal of the extremely immoral literature coming into this country.

Because we have to strengthen the ordinary law. It is not strong enough now.

You have, at least up to a point, definitions to cover "obscene" and "indecent." There may be marginal matter in which you want further definitions, but, up to a point, the ordinary law could have dealt with what is evil and what is pouring into this country. You may have been faced with the difficulty of discovering where this literature is being sold, but you are still faced with that difficulty. It is not certain that these bodies are going to find out where evil literature is going to be sold, and it may be very difficult for you to stop it with your new machinery. Together with that, you are going to advertise evil literature. For a great deal of the most gross kind of stuff coming into this country there should be no black list at all. It should be purely a police matter. To make a black list is to give it an advertisement which is injurious. It is true that we happen to have as neighbours a nation that has deliberately set out on a propaganda of contraceptives for the purpose of reducing population in order to avoid revolution. That adds to the difficulty of the situation, and will make it very much more difficult for you to face it. A great deal of that matter, I submit, could have been dealt with already, and could have been prevented, because, so far as I can gather from some of the publications dealing with the evil of immoral literature, which comes under Part IV. of the Bill, it would come under the old common law definition of "obscene and indecent," and could have been dealt with by the ordinary law. I am greatly afraid that a good deal of this censorship is going to be ineffective, but all that one can do is to hope that by proper amendment on the Committee Stage of the Bill we may improve it to such an extent that it will not be recognisable as the Bill now introduced.

I wish to welcome the introduction of this Bill. The principle of the Bill, I am sure, is approved by all Parties and all classes and creeds in the country. It is a very hopeful sign to see to-night that the various Parties in this House are apparently agreeable to treat the matter in a non-Party way so that the combined brains of all Parties will be devoted to making the Bill so perfect that when it finally emerges from the House it will be a credit to the country. On the Committee Stage, the details can be minutely examined and any flaws which now appear in the Bill can be rectified. I do not wish to say any more at present, because we will have ample time later on. I welcome the Bill, and I have great pleasure in supporting the Second Reading.

Belonging as I do to a different religion to that of Deputy Thrift, I think the first thing I should do is to pay a very sincere tribute to the manner in which Deputy Thrift has spoken to this Bill. There was at one period a very serious attempt made in the Press of this city to turn this Evil Literature Bill into what might be termed a religious question. I think the speech that Deputy Thrift has made settles that point for ever. I listened with very great attention to the very able and lucid introduction of the Bill by the Minister.

He showed, I think, what the Leader of the Opposition has asked for in the speech he has just made, a very sincere and reasonable frame of mind to entertain seriously any amendment which may be moved to this Bill by any section of the House. He showed, when he came to that very difficult word that dealt with public morality, that he was willing to entertain any amendments from any section of this House that would enable that definition to be made clearer and enable the Bill to be carried out as far as that particular section of it was concerned with greater success, if possible, by any new definition which would come from any Party or any Deputy here. I think that, as far as the Minister is concerned, he is perfectly sincere in making that statement to the House and we, on these benches, are perfectly sincere in hoping that with the co-operation of all sections we shall evolve a Bill that will work successfully for the betterment of the people and the country.

I listened to the various criticisms made on the Bill. Those coming from the opposite side of the House were criticisms with which no reasonable Deputy would quarrel. Deputy Ruttledge, with that legal training and legal acumen that he has at his command, made a very close and reasoned examination of the Bill. He found fault with the title which to my mind is a very trifling matter. He went on to examine section by section, as did the Minister from our side of the House, the various phases of the Bill, and the only point, as far as I could see, of any importance that Deputy Ruttledge put before the House was that the Opposition Party were in favour of having a larger censorship board. Speaking from this side of the House, I think that that was a very wise suggestion which the Minister should very carefully consider. It is a suggestion that has been supported by Deputy Thrift and it is one that, I am sure, will commend itself to those outside the House. It is a suggestion that, I believe I am correct in saying, has been made in the recommendations put before the committee on this problem. It would appear to me that there is a large volume of opinion behind the idea put forward by Deputy Ruttledge and that it would be in the interests of the country and in the interests of the proper working of the Bill if a larger board were constituted than five members.

Deputy Ruttledge went on to say that he rather regretted that to his mind no case had been made out for the introduction of this Bill, as far as the legal aspect of the Bill was concerned. I rather regretted that Deputy Ruttledge should have made that statement for I think it is plain to anybody who has read any of the reports, as far as the existing law is concerned, that the existing law has broken down. I regretted to hear Deputy Little, who has some experience upon those matters, when he got up to pursue the legal aspect of the question. I listened with very considerable attention and I was rather surprised to hear him put forward the argument that the existing laws were sufficient. I may say that at times I am in touch with circles similar to those with which Deputy Little is in touch, and I have heard that particular point of view put forward by legal men before, but I suggest to Deputy Little that if he had given more consideration to the Bill and had gone into the existing laws a little more closely, he would not have put forward that argument. I would just quote on that particular aspect of the question, for after all it is the really important aspect, what some very important and eminent authorities have had to say so far as the existing laws are concerned. A British Home Secretary stated that under the existing law the police cannot secure a warrant to search the premises of suspected persons until an offence has been committed and that when a warrant has been secured, the proofs of guilt have usually been removed.

I think that that is plain and positive proof that one of the sections of the Bill justifies itself without any further argument. An offence had to be committed—I thought the Minister made that perfectly plain and clear—before action could be taken by the police. In other words, a sale or something of that sort had to be carried out before the police could interfere. Under this Bill a Civic Guard, with the authority of a superintendent, will be empowered to make the necessary search and seizure. Can any reasonable man, no matter what political or religious views he holds, contend, under existing circumstances, and in view of the pronouncement of such an eminent authority as the British Home Secretary, that this section of the Bill is not justified from the first letter to the last? Further, Viscount Cave stated:—

"The present law is ineffective, especially in regard to the wilful and unscrupulous publication of indecent matter for the purpose of gain. Indiscriminate divorce reports are not only a monstrous abuse but a criminal offence. The present mode of prosecution is ineffective. The law as it stands treats the publication of indecent matter as though it might be a branch of the liberty of the Press, instead of treating it as a police offence."

Could any greater condemnation of the existing law be pronounced by any eminent authority, showing that the existing laws have undoubtedly broken down and failed to carry out the object for which they have been enacted?

If we are going to pass an Evil Literature Bill, let us pass one Bill and be done with it. I have heard people of different religious views expressing one hope, and it was this: When this Bill is introduced we hope it will be a final measure and that we will hear no more as far as legislation is concerned with regard to evil literature. When we are putting our hands to the plough let us endeavour to formulate a proper and effective measure. Let us endeavour to form that effective measure, not alone with the brains that are on the Benches of the Government Party, but also with the brains that are on the Benches of the Official Opposition Party, and I should also add, on the Benches of the Labour Party. I regret very much that the Labour Party, who really should be more interested in this matter than any other Party, have contributed so little to the discussion of the Bill.

Time enough.

Mr. BYRNE

The Second Reading of the Bill is really an important stage in regard to the shape the Bill will finally take. Criticism has been made upon various sections which will, in my opinion, undoubtedly affect the final shape which the Minister will give to the Bill before it leaves his hands. I do not think we need be under any misapprehension, or that the public need be under any misapprehension that when this Bill leaves this Assembly it will be a perfectly workmanlike measure, and that it will be exactly what is claimed for it. There was one statement made in the very able speech of Deputy Law. One of his remarks was: "I know many Protestants who are whole-heartedly in favour of this Bill"—I think he used the term breast-high—and he said: "I know Catholics who regard it with considerable apprehension." I do not think that Deputy Law and I see eye to eye on matters of religion, but I do not know from what particular sources he obtained that information. I think that the volume of Catholic opinion behind that statement is exceedingly small, so small indeed that expression might never have been given to it in this House. Perhaps I have some idea of what the feeling, as far as the Catholic population of this city is concerned, is upon this particular Bill. I do believe that greater interest has been shown and greater thought and criticism given to this Bill than perhaps the several constitutional measures that have been passed into law. I suggest that that was rather unfortunate criticism coming from Deputy Law. Deputy Law also had views upon that very difficult word "morality." The Minister for Justice said he was perfectly willing to confine this Bill to sexual morality. It shows where differences come in even between the very best brains. Deputy Law went on to say that, as far as he was concerned and as far as morality was concerned, the Bill was not comprehensive enough. Deputy Law wished to see incorporated in this Bill a prohibition of lurid reports in the Press dealing with crimes of violence and things of that sort.

It being 10.30 p.m. the debate stood adjourned.

The Dáil rose at 10.30 p.m. until tomorrow, Friday, at 10.30 a.m.