Before this Bill is taken I would like to say that I understood the Minister was to circulate a series of amendments. That was the arrangement. I would like to ask the Minister why they have not been circulated.
In Committee on Finance. Financial Resolutions. - Censorship of Publications Bill, 1928—Committee.
I do not propose bringing in any amendment except such amendments as may be necessary on the Report Stage. I indicated in my Second Reading speech certain amendments which I would be willing to accept.
Amendments have been put down from other parts of the House substantially embodying amendments which I suggested should be inserted in the Bill, and in consequence I do not feel it necessary at the present moment to insert any amendment of my own. I am very sorry if anything I have said has in any way misled the Deputy.
Only to this extent, that there were some Deputies who were anxious to put down amendments. They were waiting to see what the Minister's amendments would be like to see if they would cover their particular points of view, because there was an undertaking that the Minister himself would introduce amendments. That undertaking, as far as I know, was not departed from until now.
I support Deputy O'Connell's statement. I have been daily expecting to get a list of Ministerial amendments in order that I might consider them with the Bill.
There will be no Ministerial amendments, so there will be nothing to consider.
People who intended to put down amendments were waiting to see your amendments. Of course, you may have them on the Report Stage.
The only amendments I had in mind are substantially contained in other amendments on the paper, and it became unnecessary for me to bring them in. If the Deputy wishes to put down any amendment, I would certainly not in any way attempt to interfere with him.
On behalf of Deputy Sir James Craig I move:
In line 25, after the word "numbers," to insert the words "save and except any bona fide medical journal."
I think this amendment, which definitely excludes medical journals, was practically accepted by the Minister in his Second Reading speech or in his remarks after it.
I am willing to accept the principle which underlies the amendment, but I do not like the wording of it. I would like to introduce an amendment on the Report Stage embodying the intention which underlies Deputy Sir James Craig's amendment. The same remarks will apply to amendment 3. The actual wording is "the expression periodical publications includes any newspaper, magazine, journal or other printed publication which is published periodically or in parts or in numbers." Deputy Sir James Craig wishes to insert after that "save and except any bona fide medical journal." I think the correct wording would be "but does not include." I would like also to add the words "which shall be in the opinion of the Censorship Board to be hereafter set up a bona fide medical journal." The exact words will be supplied by the Parliamentary draftsman.
Might I suggest to the Minister that in considering enlarging the scope of the definition, he should include not merely medical magazines and periodicals, but scientific publications. I can quite conceive that books of a physiological nature and books of a strictly scientific nature might easily be condemned under this section.
Might I say in support of that that the Minister has already suggested that he would leave it to the common sense of the Board to say whether it was a scientific publication.
I would like to suggest to the Minister that if it is to be left to the opinion of the Board there is no necessity for the last paragraph in the Bill. No Board of Censors, even as the Bill stands, will hold that a medical journal comes under the definition of "indecent." I do not think it will be an improvement to the Bill or that the Bill will be disimproved without it.
I agree with Deputy Lemass that no bona fide medical journal or book could be in the slightest danger under the Bill as it stands, but since certain fears exist it is just as well to allay them. I think it is simply allaying fears by expressing openly what is already latent in the Bill. I do not think it will do the Bill any harm. So far as "scientific" is concerned, you will have to go on and say "historical," etc. I think that is going too far. As a matter of fact, when you come to deal with Sections 7 and 8, those are the sections which deal with the prohibition of books and publications. It would be better possibly to define there the nature of the book or periodical which will come under the censorship.
To insert before the word "of," line 28, the words "in whatever language written."
I do not think there is any necessity for stressing this thing. There are books in circulation other than those written in English. I think the suggestion embodied in the amendment is one that will meet with the acceptance of the Minister.
Will the Minister state if the amendment would affect Latin texts circulated for school use?
My impression is that the amendment does not affect the Bill at all, because unless a book is defined to be a book written in a particular language by the definition thereof it means a book which is written in any language. I do not see how you can confine "book," as it stands in the section, to books written in Irish, because Irish, being the official language I take it, if a book could only mean a book in one language it would mean a book written in Irish and exclude books written in English, which it could not conceivably do. The word "book" means a book written in any language unless it is defined. Then the amendment is unnecessary.
I agree with the Minister. I think the amendment is unnecessary and useless.
Can the Minister tell us how this amendment could work? Are members of the board assumed to have a knowledge of all languages or are they to have a translation bureau? What is to happen to a book written in Portuguese, or, say, to the Arabian Nights, in the original version? I think the adoption of this amendment would place the censorship board in an invidious position. They would have to have a large staff of translators. I hope the Minister will give us some enlightenment on this Bill when it becomes an Act.
Amendments 4 to 10, inclusive, all aim at varying the definition of the word "indecent." I suggest that in order to get a proper discussion in Committee, if such a discussion is desired, that on a motion that lines 29 to 31 stand part of the section, we could discuss actually what is in the Bill and all the variants suggested in the amendment. As a result of the discussion, if a vote were taken and the words were taken out, it could be left to, I think, some informal process to find out what words ought to be put in afterwards, or if no vote were taken some agreement might be reached consequent on the discussion on an amendment which could be put in subsequently. I think the only way to discuss the matter is to take all the amendments together, and the best way is to take them on the motion that lines 29 to 31 stand part of the section.
Would you get anyone to propose that?
I am sure the Minister for Justice would.
The Minister will not do it.
For the purpose of a discussion, I certainly will.
I think it was admitted, even by the Minister himself, on the Second Reading that he was not completely satisfied, at any rate, with those three lines which it is proposed shall stand "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." The Minister, I think, stated that his own view—that view, I think, was confirmed —was that it was necessary to interpret the latter words of these three lines by the limitations that were imposed on him by the preceding words. But I doubt very much if that statement is universally accepted, and I am quite sure that the impression conveyed to the ordinary reader by reading those three lines is something quite different. The three lines, as they stand, would undoubtedly suggest to the majority of people that those open up the way to including any paper or book that might in any way corrupt or deprave. The Minister, on the Second Reading Stage, I think, admitted that the inclusion of those words did not add at all to the strength of what he wanted in the section. I contend his object is gained by the words I suggest, and that the whole object of the Censorship Committee that is appointed would be also gained by those words. If the words I suggest were adopted there would not be introduced that ambiguity which I do believe is contained in the words in the Bill.
The words I suggest are "the word ‘indecent' shall be construed as meaning that which, in its purpose, suggests or incites to sexual immorality." I took those words from the Minister's Second Reading statement. He used the words "ex professo," purposely, in its purpose, for the idea he wanted to bring out in his Second Reading speech and he gave us what I think is an insufficient translation of that phrase. The phrase "in its purpose suggests or incites to sexual immorality," my contention is will secure the Minister's object and they are quite free from what I believe to be an ambiguity which lies in the words of the Bill. From the various speeches that were made I think there will be very large agreement amongst members of this House that we ought not to allow it to be said that any kind of censorship is being introduced against any paper which may in any way corrupt or deprave. It was not the purpose of the censorship committee to go into that wide matter. It is not the Minister's purpose in this Bill to introduce censorship of that wide kind. I sincerely hope the House will not pass the definition in the form the Minister suggested to the House.
The particular amendment on which we stand I do not wish to discuss at the moment. I prefer to mention certain reasons why I think the amendment of Deputy Thrift is not altogether satisfactory. While I agree that the definition in the Bill as it stands is not satisfactory, at the same time I think the words, in its purpose, are unnecessary and apt to lead to a confusion of thought. It might be contended that the book is not, in its purpose, that the purpose of the author was not, so to speak, to give a certain tendency yet a book may have that unhealthy element in it. If there were any machinery by which there might be an appeal we might agree to allow an author of a book to be represented at meetings of the Board, but it would add very greatly to the difficulty of censoring books if those words "in its purpose" were included. I think we should take the attitude which is taken by a court of law on questions of libel where it is not what the man intended to say but what the general public, the ordinary reading public, would take out of the book. In the same manner we should use this rule in this particular case.
I agree, of course, with all Deputy Thrift has said. In my definition I had the word "manifestly." I think I was aiming at what he was trying to get by his words "in its purpose." I think there is a little in that point. "Manifestly" will be manifestly to the censorship board. I think that is the way in which the matter should be. That I think is the way they should try it.
I hope the Minister will not think it necessary to retain the loose wording in line 31. I accept, of course, his explanation—he is a jurist—that it is covered and governed by the preceding words, but this Bill will be read by the public and it will give them an utterly false idea of its scope. If these words are retained they are either tautological if they are governed by the preceding words or they have some further meaning. I hope the Minister will see his way to accept something on the lines of the amendment that has been put up.
I have an amendment standing in my name, with which Deputy Law is also concerned. Our attitude is that the definition in the Bill cannot very well stand as it is. If the five words which we seek to omit be omitted, the definition would read: "Including calculated to suggest or incite to sexual immorality or in any other way to corrupt or deprave." I take it that wording in itself would cover the point which Deputy Thrift has been making. The inclusion of the word "calculated" would include the amendment that both Deputies Thrift and Alton have tried to include in their amendments. It seems to me that we really want to get rid of these five words which commit the Oireachtas as a whole to a very extraordinary statement, and once these five words are got rid of the definition is as good as we are likely to get.
I think what Deputy Tierney has said would not be sufficient unless we got the words "corrupt" and "deprave" more definitely defined, so as to make it clear even to the man in the street as well as to the lawyer that the words "corrupt" and "deprave" refer to sexual matters, because that was undoubtedly the intention of the Committee. I was a member of the Committee along with my colleague Deputy Professor Thrift, and this point came up on many occasions. It was the intention that the censorship should be confined to matters dealing with sexual immorality. The Board of Censors will not be lawyers and they might take that phrase to deal with books preaching rather peculiar political doctrines. For instance, books dealing with Russian politics might be barred out because they tend to corrupt and deprave decent society such as we have in this State, or books dealing with or describing peculiar religious doctrines or tenets might also be ruled out. I think it would be well if we had these words made quite clear. In that respect I think Deputy Ruttledge's amendment would probably meet my point of view better than any of the other amendments.
There is very little difference, I think, between Deputy Tierney's amendment and ours. If anything, I think ours is a little bit fuller in including the word "suggests."
It is the other way round.
The words "corrupt" and "deprave" are too vague.
May I point out that my deletion is the minimum deletion? Deputy Little goes further in deleting "suggests." As far as amendment 10 is concerned, certainly I have no objection to it.
I think there is pretty fair agreement in the House as to what the House wishes to do. The sole question is in what words the House will express its thoughts. Deputy Thrift and Deputy Alton, I think, slightly mistook what I said on the Second Reading debate. I do not think that that question of the distinction between ex professo and obiter, which I drew distinctly and which I still stand by, is a distinction which comes into the definition of the word "indecent" at all. A thing may be indecent ex professo; a thing may be indecent obiter, but it is indecent. The meaning of the word "indecent" is the same. It is when you come to deal later on with the classes of books that are to be prevented from circulating in this country that the distinction arises between what is obiter, which is "by the way," and what is ex professo, which I may say roughly, is "systematically or in substance" indecent. It is on Section 7 that that distinction really arises. You should not condemn a book because it has got one little passage "by the way" in it which is indecent, but none the less there is a passage there and indecency has got its same meaning. I think what was running through Deputy Alton's mind and through Deputy Thrift's mind, and also which is my own expressed opinion, will arise rather on Section 7 than in this particular definition. Deputy O'Connell and some other Deputies have said that though this may mean a certain thing to a trained interpreter of statutes it would mean possibly quite a different thing to persons who are not trained in legal interpretation. But that is precisely what I myself said in my Second Reading speech. I said I believed that that, as worded, carries out the intention which was in our minds when we brought in this Bill. That was the intention, that nothing but matters of what I may style sensuality should be dealt with. I do not think if you take out those words, "in any other way to corrupt or deprave," you will have a wide enough definition. If you put in "corrupt or deprave in sexual matters" I do not think it would be wide enough, because you could corrupt or deprave, I will say, in matters of sensuality which are not sexual matters, and do not relate to vice between the sexes at all. For instance, there is that book that was censored recently, "The Well of Loneliness." I need not develop this thing further. I have thought the thing over, and I would suggest to the House words something like these which would convey clearly to every lay man what is the real intention of the House: "The word ‘indecent' shall be construed as including calculated to suggest or incite to sexual immorality or to unnatural vice or in any other like way to corrupt or deprave."
I would suggest to the House that that does not leave any loophole and at the same time it is not too wide. I am sure Deputies Ruttledge and Lemass will agree with me that in every definition clause it is highly advisable that you should have general words, so that nothing might happen by which a little fish, so to speak, might slip out of the net. You should have general words, words which are bound down in their meaning by the particular words in front of them, but which are there because the particular words might possibly be evaded. When we bring in the words "in any other like way," I do not think it is conceivable that anyone can make a mistake as to what the meaning is. I would suggest to the House, since we have the same thought, and our only trouble is to express it in words, that this particular form of words would carry out the real intention of all parties.
I accept that.
The Minister has, undoubtedly, met one point that I tried to make. The words "in any other like way" are free from the objection I raised against the words as they stand. They are not capable of being misunderstood in the general sense in which I think the definition as it stands is capable of being misunderstood. But I have another point in my definition which I do not think the Minister got over: that is the word "calculated." It is clearly ambiguous. Does it mean what I have put down in the phrase "in its purpose"?
No, I do not think so.
It is arguable. A man takes a certain calculated course. That means a course calculated to lead to certain consequences—calculated to produce certain effects. One interpretation of it is that it is the author's purpose in that book to do a certain thing—to suggest or incite to sexual immorality. The other interpretation might mean that in the opinion of the Board of Censors it is likely to do a certain thing. If that ambiguity exists, I do not think the House ought to pass a form of words in which it knows that it exists. If it does not exist, I am prepared to be taught.
I agree with Deputy Thrift that the Minister's revised draft is a very great improvement on its predecessor. But I think he will want to define "unnatural vice." I suggest to him that, instead of the term "unnatural vice," in order to check the kind of propaganda that we all detest and want to change, he might insert, in addition to "sexual immorality,""sexual or homo-sexual immorality." I think that would cover the precise kind of propaganda that the Minister wants to check.
No. I do not think that would come in. I understand there is another book of the same nature being published at present.
There seems to be some substance in the point made by Deputy Thrift—the use of the word "calculated." Otherwise the Minister's definition seems to be a very admirable one. I am puzzled by the word "calculated." As I understand it, it means calculated in the opinion of the Board of Censors. On the other hand, the report of the Committee on Evil Literature, I think, suggests the word "intended." I should have thought it would be much easier to infer an intention in the general nature and character of the book than to infer the effect upon the readers, because in the one case you have to infer from the general nature of the acts a person's intention, and in the other you are dealing with one single thing—the intention of a man, his intention as shown by his acts, or, in this case, by his writings. If you use the word "calculated" it seems to me, at least, that you are thrown into a very much more difficult field, because you have to ask yourself, "calculated to incite in whom?" In the youth? In the adult? In the person of education? In the person of no education? For whom are you legislating? For the exception or the rule? For the man or for the individual? I should have thought that you would place a very much greater burden of difficulty upon those who have to interpret this Act by using the word "calculated" than would be placed by the use of such words as those suggested by Deputy Thrift, and I should like to hear what the Minister has to say on the matter.
I suggest the introduction of some words that would further define the word "calculated," as to whether it is calculated by the author or calculated by the Board of Censors. Because, on the lines of what I said before, we do not inquire into what the purpose of the author is or what his intention is. It is as people read it. I think the word requires further definition.
It could be done this way, by using the words "likely to suggest or incite to sexual immorality or unnatural vice or in any other similar way." That is putting "similar" instead of "like," which is synonymous, in order to get the hang of the thing. It must be the book itself, the book itself is the main thing, no matter what the author might consider. Deputy Law thinks that the class of persons should be defined.
No. I did not say that; that would be absurd. What I suggest is that it is easier to infer the intention from the character of the book than it is to decide what the effect of that book would be upon the general public. You can infer what it would be on a particular class of people, but the question is what is the test. Obviously what might incite to sexual immorality in a boy of eighteen might be entirely powerless to incite anything of the kind in a man. Therefore it is much more difficult. What is the standard of test? In whom is the incitement to take place?
That is a matter which would arise more properly when we are dealing with the class of books to be excluded rather than with the actual meaning of the word "indecent." I think there is this confusion in Deputy Law's mind. You are not here dealing with intention. You are dealing with books objectively. You are considering what the effect of a book is going to be. If you prosecute a man and punish him for producing an indecent book it is only natural that what his intention was or what it was that he meant would be matters that might be considered, because that would go to show whether he had or had not criminal intent, but what the author really meant does not matter; it is his expressed purpose, it is the effect which his thought will have as expressed in the particular words into which he has flung his thought that the censors have to consider. If there is difficulty about the word "calculated" I would be willing to substitute "likely" for "calculated," and the word "similar" for "likely" in another part of the Bill.
Is it suggested that this amendment should be now inserted?
I would rather consult the Parliamentary draftsman and show it to him. If not this amendment it will be one in almost these very words.
I suggest that the Minister should leave out both the words "likely" and "calculated" altogether and accept what I suggest— the word "suggestive." That leaves it to the Board itself to read the section as including suggestive of or inciting to sexual immorality.
Might I suggest to the Committee that the only way a satisfactory definition, in this peculiar case, could be found would be, since the Minister does not desire to put in those particular words now, to leave the words in the Bill in, and in the interval to have some kind of informal conference between the interested parties and the Minister with a view to finding words on which agreement could be come to before the next stage. It is very difficult to draft a definition in Committee of the whole Dáil—in fact it is impossible, and it is bound to be a bad definition.
I promise Deputy Alton that I will consider whether it should not be made "suggestive of or inciting to sexual immorality." It is quite likely these words would do.
I hope the Minister will give us plenty of time to consider the definition which he decides upon.
I shall circulate it.
Would the Minister accept the suggestion of the Ceann Comhairle?
Yes, I shall get the amendment drafted.
And circulate it at a very early date to give time for representation to be made before Report Stage. We shall take amendment 4 as being withdrawn, and the other amendments not moved, and that finishes Section 2.
I move amendment 11:—
"In sub-sections (1) and (2) to delete the word "five," lines 36 and 40, and substitute therefor in each line the word "nine."
This amendment provides for an increase in the number of members of the Board from five to nine. The reasons have already been given to the House as to why that increase should be made. I do not know whether the Minister is prepared to accept the views expressed in favour of that increase. The increase in numbers would make the Board more representative and make the voting power into different proportion to what it would be if only five members constituted the Board. Deputy Peadar Doyle has also an amendment on the Paper to the same effect.
I wish to support the amendment moved by Deputy Ruttledge. I think five is a very small number from which to get any kind of representative opinion in regard to a particular publication. With nine there would be a chance of a better discussion of whatever matter might be under consideration.
took the Chair.
I have given this matter a considerable amount of thought. In the debate on the Second Reading, it may be remembered I said that I did not consider the difference between five and nine a matter of principle but rather that it was a matter of detail. Since the Second Reading debate I have considered the matter carefully, and I have come to the conclusion that if you have a committee of nine—a large committee of that nature, but a committee which is supposed to be balanced between various interests in the country —you run a very grave danger indeed of making this Bill entirely worthless. If you wanted to ensure that this Bill should be a complete failure, and that it would not achieve the purpose for which it has been drafted, and the purpose which most people wish to carry out, you could not choose a more perfect way of doing it than by having a very large committee. That is a matter with which I think everyone will agree.
If you have a very large committee you will have argument and dispute, and you will have persons ranged into different camps. When you come to a small number like nine you are met with very much the same difficulty. You will have to get nine persons who will be willing to act, of well-balanced judgment upon whose considered opinion this House and this country can rely and you must have constant attendance by these nine. I have considered this matter carefully and I look round and I do not see where nine persons could be found who would have the necessary qualifications for persons who are going to be effective censors and who, at the same time, would be willing to take on the not inconsiderable burden of work which this Act will impose on their shoulders.
I am perfectly aware that the censorship committee which formulated the report upon which this Bill is based recommended a committee of from nine to twelve. Because that recommendation appeared in that report we departed from that figure with very great reluctance. But considering the difficulties which this censorship board will have to encounter and which we will have to get even five satisfactory persons to constitute this board and that if you have a larger board like nine you will have to weigh one head against another—here a Catholic, there a Protestant or a literary person—that would be very unsatisfactory. I must frankly warn the House that in my humble opinion—and as I say I have given the matter most careful consideration—you are endangering the success of this Bill and you endanger it enormously if you increase the number from five to nine. I ask the House really to give this matter most careful consideration because although it is only a detail I think it is a vital detail. If this Board be large, unwieldy and unworkable this Bill will fail and that would be very unfortunate indeed.
I do not think that the Minister has done more in advocating five instead of nine than to express his own opinion very strongly now. He has not put up anything that I think would be sufficient argument to dispose of the recommendation that was made by the Committee on Evil Literature. As a member of that Committee, I would say that this very question got very grave consideration indeed from the Committee, who considered the points now made by the Minister and who finally came to the conclusion that the membership of the Committee should be increased from nine to twelve. If the Minister thinks five is a magical number whose opinions ought to carry more weight than a Committee of nine, I would remind him that there were just five on this Committee that recommended nine, and that, perhaps, ought to weigh with him.
That fact ought to weigh with the Deputy.
Their recommendations ought to weigh with the Minister when they recommended nine. Now the Minister puts up what I think is an extraordinary argument—that is, the difficulty of getting nine suitable people to act on this Board. But it is not a question of getting nine suitable people but four suitable people, because he must get five in any case. It is a question that four cannot be got, four citizens of balanced judgment, four of the right kind of people to act on this Board in addition to the five. Four just men cannot be got. Well, I do not think there is anything in that argument. If there is any issue, it is whether a small Committee is more effective than a large one. That is the only issue. I cannot conceive that the finding of nine people to act on the Board would present any very great difficulty as against the possibility of finding five. It might be argued that a Committee of nine would be a more unwieldy Committee than a Committee of five. I think there is this point— that in the Committee of nine you would have the advantage that you would have various types of men represented on it. You could not have that Committee—you could not be successful by confining it to a smaller number than nine. We, the members of the Committee on Evil Literature, had that in our minds. We were satisfied that it would be necessary to have a small Committee, for a small Committee would be more effective than a large one, but we did not think that nine would be too large a Committee. If you confine the Committee to any lower number than nine you would not have represented on it the various outlooks on these matters that ought to be represented and properly catered for and properly represented. I think the Minister has put up no effective argument in this matter except to express his own opinion very strongly. I think the Minister should agree to the views given expression to on the Second Reading of this Bill and increase the membership to nine.
We have considered this amendment very carefully, and after three or four meetings, and after careful discussion on the matter, we came to the conclusion that nine was the best figure. There were several reasons for that. The first is that such a number would create general confidence in the Committee on the part of the general public. The general public would then have the feeling that matters before the Censorship Board would not be decided by one or two or three people, but that the matters before it would be decided by something that approaches the attitude of mind of a jury. If you applied the Minister's argument to a jury you would find that he would not allow trial by jury at all, because he would be afraid he could not get twelve men who could agree as to whether a person is guilty or not guilty. I think the object of this Bill is to get after something that is obviously criminal. The work of the members of this Committee is like the work of a jury. We think that it is reasonable to expect judgment from twelve men in a box. It is not unreasonable to expect judgment from nine men who would sit on this Board continuously.
Well constantly. If you have nine men on the Committee you may find that one of them may be sick and unable to attend, but one absent will not make much difference. If you have a Committee of five the absence of one member makes a great deal of difference. Then there is the principle of giving every section in the community an opportunity of having their views expressed on this Committee. On the whole matter of the censorship there has been very little difference of opinion on the moral issue in the Bill between the different sections in this House. In the House there has been general agreement. That agreement will be reflected also if we have a Committee of nine. You would have on that Committee a variety of opinions and of views, and you would probably have unanimity on what was, according to the common sense of the ordinary man, criminal and what was not.
The Committee on Evil Literature had very many valuable qualities, but they had no experience whatsoever of censorship. At least, I do not think that Deputy Thrift or Deputy O'Connell had, and I do not suppose that the clergymen on the Committee had either. Unfortunately, I have had some experience of censorship. I know the difficulties of censorship with which that Committee was never confronted. The great difficulty is the difficulty of getting a fixed standard as to what should be allowed and what is not to be allowed, and there is the inclination to vary which exists in a larger Censorship Committee. The ideal censorship really is to have one censor, because although being human he makes mistakes, he, at any rate, makes the same mistakes all the time, and those who have to deal with him know where they are.
The one old tune—the big drum.
I had very few quarrels with the Deputies opposite when I was Censor, because I tried to give them a fair deal. The ideal Censorship is one man. I would prefer three to five, and I would infinitely prefer five to nine, because you get there, as it were, a standardised censorship. Deputy O'Connell knows quite well that when you are on a Committee of nine you do not feel it quite so essential to attend as if you were on a small Committee where there may not be a quorum without you. There may be sickness. There are a great deal more chances of sickness on a Committee of nine than on a Committee of five. The result will be that on a Committee of nine the decisions of the Committee will vary as the personnel of the Committee present varies, and nobody will know where he is. It also means delay. It takes longer for nine individuals to read a book than five. Some people read more quickly than others. Some people have greater claims on their time than others, and you will find it hard to get nine people who are able to give the Committee the bulk of their time to read the books laid before the Censorship Committee. Take one instance. I have no doubt that the first book to be put before the Censorship Committee will be Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," six volumes. Those are closely-printed volumes too.
Are they calculated to deprave?
Calculated to deprave !
In a similar way?
Calculated to deprave? Yes, in the footnotes. Deputy Thrift remembers the footnotes. In whatever language they are printed, written in Latin or Greek, they are certainly calculated to deprave. But Professor Thrift is a scientist and not likely to be depraved, but I fear for Professor Deputy Alton. Now, that is a book that is certain to be brought before the Censorship Board. It is a book that is almost certain to be put before the Censorship Board. How long will it take nine people to read those six volumes and the footnotes, and if they are unable to read the footnotes they have to get translations. The smaller the membership of a Committee is the more effective will the Committee be. I agree with the Minister after a somewhat similar experience that if you wish the Act to break down you should make the Board as large as you can. You will not satisfy the various conflicting interests, you will not do this by making the Committee nine. You will have all the different Protestant denominations saying they ought to be represented. If you are to give on this Censorship Committee proportionate representation to the Catholics and to each of the other religions you will make it a machine that will not work. I want this machine to work on reasonably sensible lines, and I believe that five is the largest possible number that will enable the Committee to do so.
Personally, I do not think there is any very strong argument in this matter either way, except the one argument which, in spite of Deputy O'Connell, I think the Minister made very forcibly. That is the practical argument. It does not very much matter whether you have nine or five people. What really does matter is whether you can get nine people—whether it is easier to get nine than five. I do not think the analogy of the jury that Deputy Little put forward holds altogether in this case, because this work will differ considerably from the work that jurymen are called upon to perform. For one thing, it will be more permanent work, and for another thing, it will be work requiring more special qualifications than are usually expected from jurymen. I do not at all like the suggestion made by Deputy Doyle, and also by Deputy Little, that in selecting the Board the representative principle should be adhered to. I think this is emphatically a matter in which you should be very careful to avoid trying to represent conflicting interests. As Deputy Cooper pointed out, it is quite impossible to do so, and a rather terrible picture is called up before the mind when you consider the thing working out in practice. If you take the census figures you will have to find room on the Board for half a Jew, for example, and probably the next step will be to provide that the findings of the Board shall be arrived at by proportional representation. I think that not only has that representative principle no force in this particular kind of case, but that it is actually a bad principle, because you do not so much want to represent interests, some of which may be peculiar and most of which will probably be quite small; what you really want to represent is the general common-sense of the community in a matter like this. I do believe that you will get that better represented in five citizens than in nine.
On a point of personal explanation, I did not mean to suggest at all that the representation should be as Deputy Tierney suggests. What I meant was that by having the Board larger you get a wider variety of views.
I think, in considering this question of the Board, the House should bear in mind the views of those to whom the introduction of this Bill is due. Anybody in touch with these people knows that they desire a larger number, if possible, than nine, but the minimum which would be acceptable to them would be nine. I agree with every word that Deputy O'Connell said. To me it seems an unthinkable thing that in a nation like this, that claims to have some culture, nine common-sense people with the necessary qualifications could not be found to act on the Censorship Board. I think it is asking this House to believe too much when such a statement as that is made—that this country is only capable of producing five men fit to act on a Board of this description. I do not think that argument will bear analysis. I think it is utterly fallacious. Deputy Tierney crystallises the whole thing, and I do not think he so meant to crystallise it. He said that after all what is wanted is common sense. It is common sense that makes the world, and it is common sense that will make a good Board. If you have not good common sense on the Board it will be a failure. Give me the man with common sense, not the literary crank or the man with the fanatical point of view. Give me the man broad-minded and fair who can look at the thing from a common-sense point of view. If you want to come to a proper conclusion upon what is for the good of the people in a question of this kind, I unhesitatingly plump for the common-sense man.
I listened very carefully to Deputy Cooper, who has had some experience of censorship. He made the point that the difficulty is to get what he called the standardised censorship. What is the necessity for standardised censorship? What we want is effective censorship. If we get effective censorship this Bill is going to be a success. The question of standardised censorship does not arise; we want effective censorship. Deputy Cooper went on to say that a small Board of five will make the same mistakes again and again. What difference does it make what the nature of the mistakes is? What the Board is set up for is to avoid making mistakes. It does not matter if a mistake is a different one this time to what it was before; it is still a mistake. That class of reasoning is illogical, and this House should not accept it. Deputy Cooper says that the first book that would come before the Censorship Board will be Gibbon's "Rise and Fall of the Roman Republic."
Another Republic? It was an Empire, not a Republic, that Gibbon wrote about.
I think that puts it altogether out of court.
It certainly does.
Let us get down to common-sense. I appeal to Deputies to bear in mind the fact that the people who fought for a long time for this Bill wanted a Censorship Board larger than what is now proposed. I ask members on each side of the House to bear that in mind.
This is really a question, as I think the Minister clearly put it, of getting an effective censorship. I believe, with Deputy Cooper, that the larger you make the Board the greater the tendency will be to make that Board ineffective. I admit that a large Board has certain advantages. Deputy Little says that it might give more confidence. I think from that point of view it might be a little more spectacular. I fear if you have a Board of nine you will not get effective censorship. A Board of five will work more quickly. If you have a Board practically double that size I fear the work will be choked up. Even though there be a demand for a larger Board, if you have a larger Board it does not follow that the members of it will attain the ends they have in view. A suggestion was put up that possibly the most effective method would be one censor, as in the case of films. I think on the merits there is a good deal to be said from that point of view. It was not without considerable hesitation that the Executive Council came to the conclusion that on the whole in this particular case that would not work. I believe from the point of view of real effectiveness in the actual censoring of books and papers you would get better work from a Committee of three rather than a Committee of five. I am convinced of that. It is not a question of representing, as Deputy Little and Deputy Doyle mentioned, different interests; it is the ordinary moral common-sense of the people that you want represented. You are putting a heavy demand on every one of the men you put on the Board. It will be extremely difficult to get five really effective men who will be able to devote their attention to the work. It will be difficult to get the type of men you want. Just realise the amount of time that would be occupied in the actual operation of this measure. I ask Deputies seriously to consider whether they are not making the Bill to some extent unworkable by insisting on a larger Board.
If I wanted to block the Bill—I am not suggesting that there is such intention in the minds of those who are moving the amendment—I could conceive no better way of doing it than by adopting this amendment. If carried, it would render the work of the Committee slower and less effective. There is that danger.
Would you not admit that slower work would be better work?
If the people for whom Deputy Byrne speaks who are keen on this Bill want the Board to work slowly they have concealed their views very carefully. I thought that they wanted the Board to work quickly. Of course by working slowly there will be fewer mistakes, but you will have a great deal more undesirable literature coming in before the Board can give a decision, and after twelve months you will have a very small quantity of literature actually censored. Has the Deputy visualised the amount of reading which members of the Committee will have to do? Deputy Little has compared their work with that of jurors, but most jurors, if a trial is unduly long, are excused service for a number of years, whereas this unfortunate Board will have to sit year after year. He said that it was analogous to a criminal case where a man is obviously a criminal and is found to be so by twelve of his fellowmen. Unanimity is not necessary in the case of these nine men. That analogy will not work. I am sorry in a way to see that there is what I might call a party line-up in this matter. I understand from Deputy Little that his party is not going to leave it to individual members but, having considered it, they will vote en bloc.
It has come to a decided opinion without having any party intentions. The thing has been unanimous after very long consideration.
That is not what I understood to be a free vote.
There is no political intention in the matter.
I am not suggesting that, but it ought to be a free vote if it is going to be bound down by previous decision.
It is not bound down by previous decision.
I understood Deputy Little to say that they had come to a unanimous decision in this matter. It is purely a question of practice. It is not a question of principle. It is a question of really trying to make the Bill effective, and there is a danger of making it ineffective. I think that the other is a more effective method than the suggestion contained in the amendment.
May I draw attention to another amendment of ours, namely, amendment No. 30? There we supply the machinery which would render the working of a Committee of nine more rapid and effective. You have the words "the Minister shall cause such complaint to be examined by an officer to be appointed by him for the purpose and on the receipt of the report of that officer the Minister may, in his discretion, refer such complaint to the Board." It constitutes that officer as the person to sift the book carefully. He will be a whole-time officer and will have an opportunity of going into the matter very carefully and place it before the Board.
Still the onus will lie on the Board of taking steps. You are introducing a further element of delay.
I think it shortens it. It does not mean that every member of the Board has to take home the book and read it over. If a member does not read the whole book he has the case put very carefully before him by a whole-time officer. It combines the view of a single censor with the representative check upon that of a body of nine. I think that anything larger than nine would be useless.
There is a difference between us. Deputy Little has given a view of the lightness with which the Board will regard their duties. I do not agree with that. If the members of the Board are to condemn a book they must examine it. Otherwise I think it will be fatal to the prestige of the Bill.
Deputy Little, in one breath, is proposing a Board of Censorship of nine, and, in the next, one of six. He goes further than the Minister. I think he is misled by the analogy of the film censorship, which is quite different. There the Censor takes the responsibility of rejecting, but the lessee can appeal to the Appeal Board, and they have to see the film. There is nothing of that sort here. The paid Censor is supposed to read the book, but the obligation to read will rest on every one of the nine members in regard to it. I think there is a mistaken idea in regard to this, and it was at the back of my own mind at one time, which makes one rather inclined to think that people of divergent opinions must necessarily be representative, and that it is good for the Board that opinions should be divergent. I think that that is wrong in this particular case. We are not going to pick out extremists in every line of thought, but rather specialists in common sense. I think it is more likely, if you get five men of that sort, to get satisfaction, and why raise the number to nine? There is another difficulty, and that is the question of report. If you raise the number to nine you will find it hard to get a group of six to agree to a signed report. You will find it hard to get six members to attend. I have been on several boards, and I know how hard it is to get a quorum. It will be difficult out of a Board of five to get a quorum of four. I hope that the Minister will leave the matter as it is.
I agree with what the Minister has said, namely, that there is no question of principle involved in this amendment. The matter is one of making the Board effective in so far as its decisions will be acceptable to the ordinary person of common sense and good character. That is the only way in which the Board can be effective. If its decisions outrage common sense, or appear to err on the side of puritanism, I feel that the decisions of the Board will be rejected, more or less, by the ordinary individual, and it will not appear to be a grave crime if one can run contraband against the decisions of such a Board. We do not wish that position to occur. We are anxious, if a Censorship Act is in operation, that the decisions of the Board under it will be generally respected. We do not wish to have in Ireland conditions similar to those which exist in the United States, where the prohibition laws exist. For that reason we think that if we could get a larger Board than the Minister suggests, a Board of nine reasonable men, and if six came to a decision in regard to a book, that that decision would be generally accepted and censorship, from that point of view, would be more effective.
I do not agree with the contention of the Minister that a Board of nine is going to delay the work of censorship. As the Minister has said, the five censors have to read the book. It would take them as long to get five to read a book and come to a decision as it would in the case of nine. They will know that their decisions are expected on the same date, and they will take the book home at the same time, so that so far as the element of time is concerned, there is no more in favour of a Board of five than one of nine. The reference to the other amendment is, to a certain extent, misleading. The purpose of the officer, or officers, to whom the Minister might refer a book was to deal with complaints which, on the face of them, were frivolous and unsustainable and in that way to facilitate the work of the Board. We do not wish the two amendments to be taken together. We suggest, if you increase the size of the Board, that the mere weight of numbers behind a decision will make it more acceptable and the censorship will be more effective. I do not believe that there is any interest, no matter how strongly opposed to the Bill some people may be, that bases its opposition to the Bill on the ground that it wishes all sorts of pornographic literature to circulate among the people here. I think it is the general opinion that such literature should be banned, and one way of ensuring that is to have that weight which a decision of six reasonable men will give as compared with a Board of four reasonable men.
I find myself somewhat in the position of a famous judge in this country, who is said to have given his judgments somewhat on these terms. After his two colleagues had given contrary judgments in a very complicated case, with most elaborate reasons, he is supposed to have said: "I agree with my brother B for the reasons given by my brother C." I agree with the Minister, and I hope he will stand to his guns, chiefly for the reason presented by my colleague, Deputy Byrne. You want on this Board, as Deputy Byrne has said, men of common sense. You do not want representation. I cannot conceive anything more utterly destructive of any proper censorship than if you get a Board which would resemble in many respects the old Board of Intermediate Education, in which you had to be continually balancing members to see whether you would put on a Catholic or a Protestant. I am glad to say that there is no suggestion of that kind in this House, but I have heard it outside. The idea in some people's mind was to obtain, if possible, a Board constituted on sectarian lines and deliberately—I say quite clearly deliberately—to obtain a permanent Catholic majority. I am a Catholic. I became a Catholic, but I can say that there is nothing against which I will fight more determinedly than any attempt to introduce sectarian issues in a matter of this kind.
I confess that I find myself somewhat in a difficulty. As regards the numbers on the Board, considered by itself, I still adhere to the opinion I gave as a member of the Committee that I think a Board of nine would be a better Board probably than a Board of five, but in voting on the question I find that I cannot isolate that by itself, because I have to consider this amendment in conjunction with amendment 38. The Minister proposes that this Censorship Board should consist of five members, and you would have to get four of one mind. What the Committee wanted to secure was that any publication or book which, to the average self-respecting citizen, was sexually objectionable, should be kept out of the country. To secure that object I would rather take four in agreement out of five ordinary self-respecting citizens than be satisfied with six out of nine. I would feel that we were more likely to be all convinced, as a community, that we were right in keeping out a certain book if four out of five people said that it should be kept out. I would not feel so confident if there were three out of nine who said that they did not think it should be kept out. Therefore, if I were considering the Committee by itself, still I would adhere to the opinion I gave as a member of the Committee and vote for nine. If I had to take these two amendments together, as I think I must, I would vote for five, because the Minister is going to act on the opinion of four.
I have very little further to add to what I have already said upon this. Deputy O'Connell said that no case at all had been made for five. I think I endeavoured to put forward views which certainly appeal to my mind. The case for five is itself morally certain. You can get five satisfactory men to fill this position. It is by no means certain that you will get nine willing persons, not persons merely competent but also willing. Deputy Byrne said he could point out immediately Deputy Ruttledge and Deputy Peadar Doyle. I wonder if Deputy Ruttledge were asked to go on this Board what his answer would be? I should not wonder. I know perfectly well what his answer would be. You may regard it from this point of view. Persons who have other work to do and are busy could not possibly give the amount of time this would demand, and the further you widened your number obviously the greater your difficulties would become. Deputy O'Connell said you have to get five, and if you get five you will get nine. If you can get nine, then you can get a hundred and nine, and I suppose it would be his opinion that you could also get 1,000. That is a kind of progressive argument which I cannot follow. He also talked of types of mind. I do not know what types of mind you want on this body, but I do know that what you do want is a person who will be reasonably able to say that a particular book is likely to do harm to the morals of the community by circulation. It does not require any particular mind to come to that decision. It requires an amount of common sense, a person who will consider each particular book, and consider it well.
I think the Deputies opposite are agreed that this Bill, with a Committee of five, would be a success. They think it would be a greater success possibly with a Committee of nine, but I do not think they consider it would be a failure or that it would have any probability of failure if there were a Committee of five. Our position is slightly different. We think this Bill would be a success with a Committee of five, but we think it is highly probable that this Bill will be a failure with a Committee of nine, and you are endangering the real success of this Bill by establishing your Committee of nine. I would ask the Deputies to consider that very carefully, because this is an important measure. The probability of success or failure of a measure of this importance requires very careful consideration indeed from this House, and the fact that persons outside the House happen to think that nine would be better than twelve, I must frankly confess, does not appeal to me at all. It is our duty in this House to do what we think is right, and I think we should not be controlled by outside opinion. We should do what we consider in our mature judgment to be the right and proper thing to do. Deputy Little talked about a jury, but, of course, the Minister for Education has already pointed out that there is no analogy between this case and that of a jury, because you do not have the same jury sitting the whole year round. Supposing you had to have only a certain limited number of jurymen in Ireland, I would prefer to have five permanent jurymen than twelve.
On a point of explanation, I think the Minister's statement is an ingenious misinterpretation of what I meant. I was referring to a jury of twelve men, not to the other element. They can get twelve men to agree as to what is criminal and what is not criminal, and you ought to get six out of nine to agree.
Certainly, there would be no difficulty about a certain class of book just as there is no difficulty about a certain class of case for a jury to decide. But there are certain cases in which juries disagree, just as there are also certain borderline books. Those will cause the Committee a great deal of trouble, only those. There are certain books the Committee will have only to skim through and say "those cannot come in." Then there are books they will have to weigh up very gravely. Those are the difficult cases in which they will have to make up their minds. Again, Deputy MacEntee said that nine persons could read a book as quickly as five. I suppose nine persons might read a book if they were all of the same mind and had separate copies. Rules and regulations will have to be drawn up, but it does not follow that everybody who makes a complaint will have to send in nine copies. If they had it would be a strong argument for reducing the number to five on the grounds of expense.
Are we to assume that the Censorship Board will not be provided by the State with the necessary number of copies?
The rules have not even been considered. That is a matter which will have to be considered with the Censorship Board. We will assume, for the sake of argument, that the State is going to supply copies. Surely that is a strong argument for five instead of nine, because what will be the extra expense for four copies of an expensive book? It will become very heavy indeed. Even an ordinary novel costs 7/6; 4 copies will be 30/-. Take the more expensive books which are published.
May I suggest that the Minister should consider the argument of expense in relation to the number of books that will come before the Board in a year? I presume the Board cannot censor books at the rate of more than one a fortnight.
The Board will have to start off with a very large list.
Are they going to be whole-time salaried officials?
Most certainly they are not. If the Deputy visualises a Board that is going to deal with twenty-four books in a year and no newspapers he visualises——
Has the Minister himself formed any idea as to the number of books that this Board will deal with in a year?
It is absolutely impossible, but it will be a great number of books.
Will the Minister suggest a number?
How on earth could I suggest a number? All I can say is that we will deal with a great many more than one a fortnight, certainly in the early stages. Otherwise, it would be perfectly valueless. If the Deputy thinks that the number of indecent books that exist in the world is about twenty-four I am sorry to say that he lives up in a balloon.
The Minister seems to have a more extensive knowledge of that sort of literature than I have.
This Bill does not in any way prevent the ordinary law continuing. There is some obvious stuff which should not come before the Board at all.
It must be brought before it. If the Deputy read the Report of the Committee he would see that the system of indicting and charging people for the sale of indecent literature has completely broken down and that a charge once a year or twice a year is practically the most that can be brought, and even then it is only against one particular seller. It is because the Committee reported that the ordinary law had broken down that this Bill has got to be introduced. If the Deputy reads the Report he will see that. That is the conclusion arrived at after this Committee had examined a great number of witnesses and had gone into a vast mass of evidence.
That is so with a certain number of special matters. It has broken down, but there is quite a large amount of stuff which could be stopped by the machinery of the police and it should not be necessary to bring it before the Board at all.
Are we not getting away from the point of this particular amendment?
However, this is not a matter which goes to the root of the question. I am perfectly willing to have it left to an open vote of the House, but I will leave it to an open vote of the House with this expression of my own opinion, for what it is worth, that I do believe if you set up a Board of nine, the Censorship Bill will be of very little use.
- Aird, William P.
- Alton, Ernest Henry.
- Bennett, George Cecil.
- Blythe, Ernest
- Bourke, Séamus A.
- Brodrick, Seán.
- Carey, Edmund.
- Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
- Conlan, Martin.
- Connolly, Michael P.
- Cooper, Bryan Ricco.
- Cosgrave, William T.
- Craig, Sir James.
- Crowley, James.
- Daly, John.
- Davis, Michael.
- Jordan, Michael.
- Kelly, Patrick Michael.
- Keogh, Myles.
- Law, Hugh Alexander.
- Lynch, Finian.
- Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
- McDonogh, Martin.
- McFadden, Michael Og.
- McGilligan, Patrick.
- Mongan, Joseph W.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Mullins, Thomas.
- Murphy, James E.
- Murphy, Joseph Xavier.
- Nally, Martin Michael.
- O'Connell, Richard.
- O'Connor, Bartholomew.
- De Loughrey, Peter.
- Doherty, Eugene.
- Dolan, James N.
- Duggan, Edmund John.
- Dwyer, James.
- Egan, Barry M.
- Esmonde, Osmond Thos. Grattan.
- Fitzgerald, Desmond.
- Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
- Gorey, Denis J.
- Hassett, John J.
- Heffernan, Michael R.
- Hennessy, Thomas.
- Henry, Mark.
- Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
- Holohan, Richard.
- O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
- O'Hanlon, John F.
- O'Leary, Daniel.
- O'Mahony, Dermot Gun.
- O'Sullivan, Gearoid.
- O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
- Reynolds, Patrick.
- Rice, Vincent.
- Roddy, Martin.
- Shaw, Patrick W.
- Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
- Thrift, William Edward.
- Tierney, Michael.
- White, Vincent Joseph.
- Wolfe, George.
- Wolfe, Jasper Travers.
- Allen, Denis.
- Anthony, Richard.
- Blaney, Neal.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Boland, Patrick.
- Bourke, Daniel.
- Brady, Seán.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Buckley, Daniel.
- Byrne, John Joseph.
- Carney, Frank.
- Carty, Frank.
- Cassidy, Archie J.
- Clancy, Patrick.
- Clery, Michael.
- Colbert, James.
- Cole, John James.
- Colohan, Hugh.
- Cooney, Eamon.
- Corkery, Dan.
- Corry, Martin John.
- Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
- Crowley, Tadhg.
- Davin, William.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- Doyle, Edward.
- Doyle, Peadar Seán.
- Fahy, Frank.
- Flinn, Hugo.
- Fogarty, Andrew.
- Good, John.
- Gorry, Patrick J.
- Goulding, John.
- Haslett, Alexander.
- Hayes, Seán.
- Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
- Holt, Samuel.
- Houlihan, Patrick.
- Jordan, Stephen.
- Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
- Kent, William R.
- Kerlin, Frank.
- Killane, James Joseph.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Kilroy, Michael.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- Little, Patrick John.
- Maguire, Ben.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Moore, Séamus.
- Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
- Myles, James Sproule.
- O'Connell, Thomas J.
- O'Dowd, Patrick Joseph.
- O'Kelly, Seán T.
- O'Leary, William.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- O'Reilly, Thomas.
- Powell, Thomas P.
- Ruttledge, Patrick J.
- Sexton, Martin.
- Sheehy, Timothy (Tipperary).
- Smith, Patrick.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Ward, Francis C.
In sub-section (2), line 40, after the word "persons" to insert the words "not being ministers of any religious denomination."
It is needless to say that in proposing this amendment there is no feeling in my mind except one of the greatest respect for ministers of every religious denomination. In fact, I simply propose this because I think the function of ministers of religion is a much higher one than the function of this Board of Censors will be. As indicated in the report, to secure the object which the Committee had at heart the censors will only be at best partially successful, and to secure that object in full in the best way will be largely the function of ministers of religion, by educating the youth not to wish for this sort of thing. What the Committee indicated in their report was, if the consensus of opinion of the ordinary self-respecting citizen was against a book, it was advisable that that book should not be admitted. What we want to get in this connection is the opinion of the ordinary citizen. With Deputy Law I am in entire agreement. There is nothing even religious in this matter; certainly nothing denominational. It is the moral sense which is affected. If we can secure that only such books are kept out as are repulsive to the ordinary self-respecting citizen, I think we shall have secured what we want. I think we are likely to get that by establishing a Board of such citizens. I contend there is no theological point involved, and no denominational point involved, and therefore I move that in the choice of a Board of Censors the Minister shall confine himself to ordinary citizens, and that we do not put ministers of religion on this Board of Censors.
I think this should be left entirely to the discretion of the Minister—that it would be very invidious to make any distinction between layman and cleric. It might just happen that some particular minister of religion might be very suited from his natural temperament for this work, or it might happen that the Minister would consider that no minister in religion would be suitable. But I think it would create a great deal of feeling against the Board if an invidious distinction is made between one kind of citizen and another in this matter.
Deputy Thrift's opinion justly carries so much weight, and I find myself throughout this Bill so constantly in general and cordial agreement with him, that I must, on this occasion, express definitely why I cannot vote for this amendment. I agree entirely with what Deputy Little said. I said on Second Reading that in answer to a friend of mine who expressed fear of what might be done by the Bishops, I remarked that I was afraid, not of Bishops, but of busybodies. I am certain that a minister of religion would not take any less wide and sensible view on these matters than a layman. On the other hand, I am much more afraid in this connection of the fanatic, and want to avoid him. I see no reason whatever to assume that a man is disqualified from acting as a member of the Board of Censors by the fact that he is in Holy Orders.
I am opposed to this amendment. My chief reason for voting for the last amendment was because I believed that if the Minister's section was carried as it appeared on the paper, we might have an undue proportion of representatives of the Churches upon it. The proportion might possibly be two to three. As the last amendment was carried, we will have a Board of nine. I therefore see no valid reason why any disabilities should be placed on any representatives of religious denominations. I am further strengthened in that belief by the report of the Committee on Evil Literature. As the House is aware, the recommendations of that Committee were signed by the mover of this amendment, Deputy Thrift. Amongst the recommendations of that Committee, on page 18 of the report, is No. 3—that a Board or Committee consisting of from nine to twelve persons representative of the religious, educational, literary and artistic interests of the Saorstát should be constituted. That is one of the recommendations of the Committee, and no valid reason has been put forward to show why this disability should be placed on the members of religious denominations. I would be sorry indeed if sectarianism should be introduced into this Board, but I take it that the representatives of these religious institutions who may be placed on the Board will be people of discernment. In any case, they cannot do very much harm on a Board of nine, and for that reason I oppose the amendment.
I cannot support this amendment. I think a knowledge of theology should be no barrier to representation on this Board. I do not like the unskilled theologian, and for that reason I would be very glad to see responsible men with a knowledge of theology on the Board. The unskilled theologian, like an unskilled person of any kind, is generally a bit of a nuisance. For that reason, I think that the fewer of them we have on the Board the better.
I cannot accept the amendment, nor can I agree with the argument put forward against it by Deputy Anthony. I cannot see any reason why a person who has taken Holy Orders in any Church, whether a Catholic priest, a Protestant clergyman or a Presbyterian or Methodist minister, by taking Orders, has ceased to be a common sense man. I cannot follow that argument.
I cannot see why because a man is in Orders, because he is a priest, his common sense has flown away. If his common sense has not flown away, why is he not eligible to be appointed on this Committee? We had it expressed in the last debate in every quarter of the House that what you want on this Board is men of common sense. You ask us now to hold that clergymen of all denominations do not contain amongst them even one man of common sense. Is not that what the amendment really comes to? That is how it presents itself to my mind, and it is not an argument that I can accept. I do not say necessarily this Board will have clergymen of any denomination upon it. I do not see that that necessarily follows, but I say to exclude clergymen of any religious denomination would be absurd.
The arguments which I tried to put forward when moving this amendment were obviously misunderstood, so that I must ask permission to make two or three remarks in reply. I have no intention of pressing the amendment, because it is quite clear also that it is against the feeling of the House. But every speaker completely misunderstood what I tried to say. Deputy Little completely begged the whole question by calling it an invidious distinction, which was exactly contrary to what I expressed—namely, that I reserved for the Ministers the higher functions of educating youth so that they would not wish for what this Board of Censors was to try to keep from them. The Minister for Justice thought that I argued that persons in Holy Orders were unfit for this office. I tried to convey quite the opposite, not that they were unfit for this office but that we would get better results by using those who might be much less fit. Deputy Hennessy objected to unskilled theologians. The whole purport of my argument was to show that theology did not enter into this question, and neither does it. It is moral sense, and not theology at all. My arguments were misunderstood, but clearly the House does not want this amendment, and therefore I ask leave to withdraw it.
I move amendment 13 on behalf of Deputy Ruttledge:—
To add at the end of sub-section (2), line 41, the words: "of whom at least two shall be women."
I think it would have a very salutary effect on the Committee to have a variety of views, and as this is a matter upon which we want the fullest possible viewpoint I think it would be well to have two women on the Board.
I object to this amendment for the same reason that I objected to amendment No. 11. It is based upon a notion which I think in itself is antiquated at present. If you have a section of this Bill drafted providing that at least two of the members of the Committee shall be women why not have another section providing that two of the Committee shall be men. This whole notion that you can never establish a Committee without ensuring that a certain proportion of its members should be women belongs to the 1890's, and ought in my opinion to be abandoned at the present day. The Minister, naturally, if he finds there are certain aspects of the work of the Committee which women are better able to judge than men will in the normal course appoint women to that body, but it would be altogether wrong to tie his hands in that respect just as it would be wrong to tie his hands negatively as amendment 12 tried to do.
I cannot accept this amendment either. I completely agree with what Deputy Tierney has said that this is a matter in which men and women must be weighed on their respective merits. What, in effect, this amendment does is to confine the women membership to two. But to confine the women to two would be possibly quite wrong. Now that the House has elected to have a Board of nine it would mean seven men to two women. It might be advisable, because women have sometimes more leisure than men, to have three. You should decide these things not upon very antiquated lines, as Deputy Tierney pointed out, but leave it so that the best persons will be selected for the position, whether men or women.
There seems to be an idea in the House that a great many matters in connection with this Bill should be left to the Minister. If there are genuine objections to the proposal of putting at least two women on the Board let us hear them, but let us not take up the attitude that the House is not capable of deciding for itself who should be put on the Board and why women should be excluded.
There is no use saying that by putting this motion down we are simply presupposing that the members of the House are living in the Victorian era. Women have as much to do with reading and writing as men have. If it is the intention of the Minister and if, as Deputy Tierney believes, the Minister would give in any case consideration to this matter, what is the objection to having the clause in? The clause specifies that there should be two ladies. It is only right that the women of Ireland should have a place on this Board, and why should they not get representation as well as the different religious bodies?
The Deputy has borne out what I said as to being antiquated when we find him referring to those two hypothetical women as ladies. He not only went back to the 1890 era, but positively to the 1850 era.
Do you suggest that they should not be ladies?
I should have no objection to a section like this if there were a similar clause providing that a certain percentage of the Board should consist of men.
Is there anything in the Bill preventing the Minister from appointing a Board exclusively of women?
The Lord save us!
I would like to say that I do not think that Deputy Derrig seems to realise that it is not a special compliment to propose this amendment. Because in this amendment there is the clear assumption that if a place is not specially reserved for women they will not get a place. I would not like to start with that assumption. I think the House would be right in assuming that men and women will be appointed on their merits on this Board.
Perhaps the Minister will say whether he will consider the question of the importance of having women on the Board and give us an idea of what his mind is on the subject. That will help us to come to an understanding on the matter.
My view is that when this Board comes to be constituted, if the most suitable person is a woman, a woman will be appointed, and if the most suitable person is a man, a man will be appointed on the Board.
It is not right to ask a bachelor Minister such a question.
I move amendment 14:—
In sub-section (7), page 3, line 10, after the word "may," to insert the words "for cause shown."
I do not know whether the Minister will accept this. I hope he will. As the section stands, it seems to me that it gives the Minister more power than we should hand over to the Minister. As it stands the Minister may remove from membership anyone who becomes, in his opinion, unfit to be a member of the Board. He can act on that and remove him without any statement at all as to why he does that. I know it is not likely that the present Minister will do that. It would not happen in the case of the present Minister, but it is possible that a Minister in the future would remove from the Board a person who had given an opinion on a certain matter in opposition to the views of the Minister. The Minister may remove such a person and say he is unfit to be a member. I suggest if the Minister is given power to do that he should do it "for cause shown" or words to that effect could be inserted in the amendment.
I am in agreement with that amendment, and I think Deputy Thrift's suggestion is a very good one. Perhaps the Minister would accept it.
I would suggest to Deputy Thrift that he would reconsider this matter "for cause shown." Who is to show cause? Someone has to show cause. Who is that person who is to show cause? Surely the Minister himself. It is rather meaningless to say that the Minister must show cause to himself. That is how it appears to me. I cannot see who is to be the prosecutor, who is to be the person who will show cause to the Minister. Now consider another aspect of it. The Minister may remove from office "for cause shown" any member of the Board who is absent otherwise than on account of illness from four consecutive meetings of the Board. That is not within the Minister's discretion at all; "or becomes unfit to be a member of the Board." In the first place, nobody would be removed from the Board unless that person had shown himself, in the judgment of the Minister, to be a crank, somebody that the others cannot pull with, somebody who is preventing the machinery from working. Whom is the Minister to show cause to? To himself? I do not quite follow exactly how this is to be done. Is the Minister to put in a public minute and circulate it: "I consider so-and-so to be a crank and so I will not keep him on the Board?" I do not think that would be a very nice thing. It would be a rather difficult position. I do not see how it could be done. You must always recollect that if a person goes on this Board and has to be removed, it might be unfair to him that the Minister might have to go through the task of publishing in a newspaper what is his personal opinion of a particular individual whom he has asked to act as a censor. I do not think it would be fair to the person who would be removed. As far as giving too much power to the Minister is concerned, you must remember this—and I am very strong upon that point—the Censorship Board will not be independent of the Dáil. The Censorship Board, if established, will be under the control of the Dáil, because the Minister will be under the control of the Dáil, and he will have the last word in the censorship. It is keeping Parliamentary control over the Board and not setting up an independent corporation, independent of this House, independent of anything that this House could do. Where avoidable I think that is not a good thing.
I take it from what the Minister says that in case a member is removed from the Board the House would have an opportunity of discussing the Minister's action in the matter?
Yes; somebody could ask the question if he thought it advisable why so and so was removed from the Board or a member could move it on the adjournment of the House.
He would have to say then that he was a crank—is that the suggestion?
I do not think that situation would be likely to arise. A Deputy would not raise the question, if he thought it would be prejudicial to the person removed. If the Deputy thought that the Minister had acted wrongly or had acted in an extremely foolish way——
Is that possible?
Such a compliment I did not expect. I would ask the Deputy not to persist in the amendment.
Are we to assume that the removal of a member of the Board will be published in theIris Oifigiúil?
Yes, of course. It is a public act. It will be published. Appointments and names will be published.
I agree with the Minister that the case he cited would not arise and it is no answer to my contention. The Minister would not in practice attempt to remove a member from the Board. This proposal of mine is put in to meet certain special cases that might arise. In the case the Minister cited, the member of the Board would, no doubt, be entitled to some reason for his removal. I am not wedded by any means to these words in my amendment and the Minister could choose words a great deal better than I can.
What I want done in this case is that when any such public act takes place it should be accompanied by a public statement giving the reasons justifying the act. I do not think we ought to have in legislation of this kind sections which give autocratic power to the Minister. If his action in removing a member of the Board should be questioned in the Dáil, a Minister might easily reply that he acted merely in accordance with the section in the Act which allowed him to remove a member of the Board if he thought he was unfit to be a member. The Minister need not go beyond that. If we are to give powers of this kind, I think we ought to qualify them in such a way that the Minister shall be obliged to state his reasons for any particular action. The Minister can frame the amendment in his own words; he can be advised as to the proper words he should use. What I want is a public statement giving the reasons why a particular course, which, no doubt, the present Minister would be reluctant to take but which another Minister might consider it advisable to take, was adopted in regard to a member of the Board who might be removed from membership because of his unfitness, in the Minister's opinion, to be a member.
I think Deputy Thrift is making his point purely as a matter of principle. He stresses this power that is given to the Minister to remove a member. We give the Minister without question power to put men on the Board. If we can trust his judgment in putting on suitable men, surely we can trust his judgment in taking an unsuitable man off? If we have no way out in the case of appointing members of the Board except to leave it to the discretion of the Minister, then I think we may trust his discretion if he thinks it advisable to remove a member. I can quite see the difficulties he will be up against if he had to show cause such as in the cases Deputy Thrift cited. I think the net result, if this proposal were agreed to, would be that he would hesitate to remove the man who should be removed simply because he did not want to show cause.
Deputy Thrift wants the Minister to publish reasons for the removal of a member of the Board. I think that would be very unfair to the person who was being removed in a great many cases. There is existing at the moment power in the Executive Council to remove a person from office if that person has misconducted himself in office. You may say that so-and-so has been dismissed from the Civil Service, but if the Executive Council had to publish that so-and-so was dismissed from the service for particular reasons, setting out what they were, it would do that man an infinity of harm, and would prevent him, perhaps, from getting any other chance of employment. I think it might very well be the same way in connection with the removal of a member of the Board. If a member of the Board were removed and reasons had to be published, it might do him a great deal of harm, and I do not think it would be fair to him.
took the Chair.
I beg to move:—
In sub-section (1), line 24, after the word "The" to insert the words "first meeting of the Board shall be held at such time as the Minister shall appoint and subsequent."
I think this is more or less in the nature of a drafting amendment which I fancy the Minister will find necessary, because there is no provision in the Bill for summoning the first meeting.
I agree, and I am quite willing to accept the amendment. Possibly, it may be necessary to alter the wording, but at the moment I do not think so. It is an omission from the Bill, and I am greatly obliged to the Deputy for pointing it out.
To add at the end of sub-section (1), line 26, the words "but in any event not less frequently than once each calendar month."
I think the purpose of the Bill would be defeated if there was laxity or carelessness on the part of the Board by which they would meet at periods of three or six months. As that is quite possible, I think there ought to be a definite period of meeting set out in the Bill.
I am willing to consider what the Deputy has said, but at the moment I see very practical difficulties in carrying out his suggestion. Suppose six of the nine members—if that number is to constitute a quorum, and they cannot act without six—do not turn up once a month, what happens? It appears to me that if they do not meet, then the whole Board is dissolved. We will then have to go round the world looking for the second best nine, and so on. I will think the matter over further, but at the moment I do not think the Deputy's suggestion is a workable one.
I took it for granted that the Minister was going to reject the amendment. I cannot see, even if you do accept the contention that the Board is likely to act as Deputy Doyle suggests it may act, and if you do accept the amendment, that you are going to create any better arrangement.
You may have the Board meeting once per calendar month and adjourning whatever work is under consideration from one meeting to another—that is just as likely to happen as what Deputy Doyle suggests. It is not in the least likely that a Board will be so dishonest as the Deputy suggested, and will render the whole Act unworkable by refusing to meet.
It might also happen that if a few of the members went on a summer holiday together the whole Board would be dissolved. If two went on holiday and other members got sick the Board would also be dissolved.
Deputy Tierney said with greater eloquence than I could command, and he said it much more forcibly, what I was going to say on this amendment.
I beg to move:—
To add at the end of sub-section (2), line 31, the words "and in the event of an equality of votes the presiding Chairman shall have the right to exercise a casting vote."
In the event of nine members being on the Board, and in the event of four voting each way on a matter under discussion, there would be no means of having a majority and in that case it would be advisable that the Chairman should have a casting vote. The provision in the Bill is rather obscure.
I should like also to object to this. It seems to me to enshrine within it a radically false view of the work of the Board and the attitude the Board should take towards its work. The decisions of the Board should not be made as the result of close wrangling. If they are, I do not think the proceedings would be at all improved by giving a casting vote to anybody. If what Deputy Little suggested a while ago, when he mentioned the analogy with a jury, holds at all, it certainly should hold in this case because the foreman of the jury could not exercise a casting vote in the case of a criminal prosecution.
Progress ordered to be reported. The Dáil went out of Committee.