This is a suggestion that in the event of an equality of votes the presiding Chairman shall have the right to exercise a casting vote. As the matter stands at present, and as I fancy it always will stand, there will be a certain fixed majority. As the Bill originally stood there was to be a majority of four out of five, before any decision could be come to. An amendment was carried last night enlarging the number of the Committee from five to nine, and there is another amendment later on that there should be a majority of at least six out of these nine before a publication could be censored. In these circumstances, I cannot see how it could possibly arise that the Chairman would have a casting vote. I think it is completely out of harmony with the whole scheme of the Bill.
Public Business. - Censorship of Publications Bill, 1928—Committee (Resumed).
There is just the point that in the event of an even number attending a meeting, and equal voting, no decision could be arrived at under the Bill as it stands.
If the amendment is carried, that there must be six, and if there must be six out of nine, there never can be an even number voting.
took the Chair.
I beg to move amendment 18 on behalf of Deputy Cole:—
To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
(4) All meetings of the Board shall be held in public.
I cannot accept this amendment to the effect that meetings of the Board shall be held in public. I do not think that would be at all beneficial. I am slightly afraid that this large committee of nine may have a tendency to degenerate a bit into a debating society. That is possible, but if the meetings were held in public I am afraid it would almost certainly develop into a debating society. Besides, I think it would be very undesirable that debates of this kind should be held in public. What they would be debating would be as to whether such and such a book was or was not indecent, and as to whether such and such a passage was or was not indecent. I am afraid those public debates would be attended by all the prurient-minded persons in Dublin, and that there would be a great deal of reading of immoral passages for their delectation.
I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
On that question I would point out to the Minister that sub-section (3) will have to be modified in view of the decision of the Committee last night. The sub-section reads: "The Board may act notwithstanding a vacancy in their membership." That meant one vacancy, but the Minister will have to enlarge that number now that the number has been increased.
I shall consider it. What appears to me is there might be a catastrophe in which two vacancies would occur together. Of course, a vacancy would take some little time to fill up, but I shall consider the matter carefully as to whether the sub-section should be amended.
I suggest that the number of vacancies would be determined by the quorum you fix.
I move amendment 19:—
To insert before Section 6 a new section as follows:—
"Complaints made under this Act shall be subscribed by not less than ten persons, being resident citizens of Saorstát Eireann, each of whom shall make a statutory declaration that he has read the whole of the book or of the particular edition in question of the book which is the subject of the complaint, or in the case of a periodical that he has read several successive issues."
The section is intended to provide machinery for the initiation of proceedings under this Bill. When I read it I thought the underlying idea was to prevent the Minister and his Department from being bombarded with letters and correspondence from cranks and busybodies. I thought the idea was to provide some kind of a sieve that would keep out trivial and unnecessary applications that would completely block the machinery of the Bill. But the Minister in his speech on the Second Reading said that his purpose in bringing in this section was to provide some machinery for working the Bill. I think I am representing him correctly when I say that he felt that if it were left to people generally to provide the initiative nothing would be done. That has often happened. Everybody's business is nobody's business. On the other hand, looking at the scheme to provide for initiating proceedings it seems to me to be open to some very serious objections.
It has been pointed out by many speakers in the House that the obligation to purify the State in regard to its literature, at any rate, is an obligation which rests on everyone of us as citizens. It is to our sense of civic responsibility that we must look to get the backing that will make this Bill really operative. Unless this Bill has got the respect and confidence of the masses of the people it will not be operative. I think the Minister is taking an undemocratic line and making a mistake, a political mistake, in trying to vest the civic conscience in groups of purity experts, however high-minded they may be. That is what it comes to. I think the ordinary man in the street will view the action of such groups with a certain suspicion, sometimes perhaps with a little bit of tolerant pity. He will not have much confidence in them. There will be some who will look upon such groups and associations as a sort of moral C.I.D., or even worse, as ethical informers. I think that is a grave mistake. What I propose is that we leave the ordinary citizen the right —and it is his right—if he thinks a book is objectionable and is ready to make a proper study of that book and to make a serious declaration that he thinks there is something objectionable in it, to approach the Minister directly. That does not cut out any association if the associations are earnest in their work, and I know they are earnest. I am the last person to depreciate what they have done. They can act under the system I have suggested as an alternative. I proposed that complaints under this Act should be subscribed by not less than ten persons. I am not bound to say any particular number. I want at least three residents in Saorstát Eireann, each of whom shall make a statutory declaration that he has read the whole of the book or of the particular edition in question of the book which is the subject of complaint, or in the case of a periodical, that he has read several successive issues. The only objection I have seen to the proposal I have made is on the ground of expense.
I think the Minister should have enlightened the objector on that score. The cost of a statutory declaration is exactly nothing. As to the cost of books, I do not see why more books should be bought when a group of people unorganised read them than when a group read them in an association. That objection to the suggestion I have made is, I think, completely pointless. I do not say it is made with any unfairness. But in fact it is an unfair objection. I made this proposal after long thought, earnestly desiring to provide machinery that would be of a thoroughly democratic nature and would do something to impress upon the ordinary citizen his sense of responsibility. That would give the Bill a wider basis in the conscience of the people. Because if you have associations they will be localised, and it is the opinion of a man in Donegal and a man in Cork that I want as well as the opinion of a man in Dublin. I do suggest to the Minister that this amendment which I have proposed is in principle sound and more in keeping with our constitutional outlook than the principle of the section that he has framed.
Before the amendment is put I want to say that I had an amendment in here to delete the whole section. I assume that the reason that it did not appear was that it might be considered a direct negative. The reason for deleting the section was, that when you come to Deputy Alton's amendment there is the question of vested interests and I suppose that that imposes or would impose eventually, as a natural consequence, costs upon the State. If you are by this Bill to recognise associations, that may be only the thin edge of the wedge, until some other day those associations may have to be paid and provision may have to be made for the controlling and working of those associations. I think it is a dangerous precedent to establish that any body of people coming together for such purposes as might be required under this Bill should get a status and an interest and be controlled and directed in such a way that it might impose liability upon the State and upon the Exchequer. When the Bill becomes law it is the officers of the law that should carry out those things.
I am supporting Deputy Alton's amendment. On a previous occasion when discussing this Bill, I think I said that I looked upon the setting up of those associations as the beginning of an era when we would have multiplied the number of Nosey Parkers in existence. I have seen and heard nothing since to alter that opinion. It is only reasonable to expect that the author will be as a prisoner charged with an indictable offence—he is presumed to be innocent until he is found guilty. All this amendment seeks to do is to put a very moderate request, a very reasonable request—it seeks to provide that the persons must have read the whole book or at least some portion of the serial before passing judgment upon it and before referring it to the Board as a periodical or book that should not be read under this Bill. It would be, manifestly, unfair to the reading public and to literature generally if, say, two or three religious fanatics, some of whom—or all of whom—perhaps could lay no possible claim to having any literary knowledge in the broadest and fullest sense of the term, could be enabled under this Bill after having perhaps, cursorily, glanced through the pages of a magazine or a newspaper or a particular book and having discovered in that book or magazine or newspaper some passage or passages which, to their mind, might not be fit and proper reading to put into the hands of the people, to report to this Board that it was not a fit and proper book or magazine or periodical. I say it would be, manifestly, unfair if such a state of affairs were allowed to operate in this country.
I have not as great faith as some people pretend to have in my own fellow-countrymen of that particular type to presume that I will not be unduly interfered with in my reading. I am not going to subscribe to the idea that two or three of these associations in Dublin or elsewhere are going to dictate to me what I am going to read. I reject that idea altogether, and that idea seems to permeate and to underlie many of the discussions which took place both outside and inside this House. It seems to permeate and influence many of the discussions that have taken place inside and outside the House. There is, to my mind, a most undesirable atmosphere being created in the country in connection with this Bill. There is an amount of duplicity practised in connection with this as in connection with other things that are operating around us. Many persons because of certain clerical influence and because of certain pronouncements by religious of all communities and all sections—at least, by all brands of religion, if I might say so—because of pronouncements by certain authorities of these churches, certain individuals and many Deputies, too, in this country are afraid to say what they really believe and what they think to be right. Personally, I am not going to act in that way, and I am altogether opposed to the principle enunciated in this section of handing over to these associations—
Are we on the section or are we on Deputy Alton's amendment?
This is a proposal for a new section.
I am speaking of the section itself.
On a point of order, I think it would probably be of great assistance to the House, and probably tend to shorten the discussion if we knew what your ruling was as to how we could take these amendments to this section. We have heard the proposal of Deputy Alton which is not very clear to me as to whether or not his amendment is intended to be in substitution for Section 6 of the Bill. It certainly is not in the form of a substitution, and I rather understood from Deputy Alton that he did not intend to exclude the setting up of recognised associations by this amendment. Am I right?
I pointed out that nothing prevents the members of such associations as individual citizens acting under this new amendment which I have outlined.
That is what I understood. On the other hand, I apprehend that the Minister may possibly reject this proposal and that he may set against it the proposal in the Bill, and in effect, therefore, the two should not be discussed. I suggest for your consideration, just as the Ceann Comhairle did yesterday in the matter of the first section of this Bill, to let all the amendments be taken together and to allow general discussion to take place over the question. I think it would be for the convenience of the House if you allow a similar course to be taken now.
It is quite clear that Deputy Alton's amendment is not meant to be a substitute for Section 6. The amendment is a new section, it is to insert a new section before Section 6. It is, I think, rather an important amendment, and for that reason I was inclined to allow the discussion. I think it is desirable —it is in fact inevitable that references will have to be made to Section 6 in discussing the proposed new section.
I, like Deputy Ruttledge, actually did propose the deletion of Section 6 and the substitution of my amendment for it. That, of course, was contrary to form and was not accepted by you.
The proposal before the House is for a new section before Section 6.
I take it that involves that if this amendment passes Section 6 will have to go. The two cannot stand together. You could not have two ways of working the Act.
It is well to be clear on that.
What is before the House at the moment is a proposal for a new section. The other question would arise if this amendment is carried.
I understand that you allowed the discussion of the two things to be taken together.
I would like to emphasise that point, because Deputies here who are in favour of the deletion of the section and are not supporting the amendment will find themselves in a difficulty if it is not made clear that the discussion is on the whole amendment. We wish to get a decision on the retention of the section as well as on the amendment.
I have already said that in order to have the amendment properly discussed I cannot confine Deputies to the amendment only. It is inevitable that some reference will have to be made to Section 6. Of course, there will be two separate decisions on the amendment and the section, as contained in the Bill.
When shall we have an opportunity of discussing Section 6 unamended?
After the amendment has been disposed of.
We will then have an opportunity of discussing Section 6?
That does not seem fair to Deputy Alton's amendment. I take it that his amendment is intended to go before this section, but it is really in substitution of this section. The amendment I intended to move was to delete all Section 6. I think it would be more reasonable if the House were in a position to decide first whether Section 6 should be deleted. Afterwards we could deal with Deputy Alton's amendment.
Will there not be an opportunity after we have dealt with Deputy Alton's amendment? I quite admit that the amendment is meant to be in substitution, because we can see it is practically a substitute for the section. Supposing Deputy Alton's amendment is defeated, I presume we then can go on to amendments 20 to 23. Then we will have an opportunity of discussing the whole section, such as Deputy Ruttledge wishes, and he can then move the deletion of the section.
I want to delete the section. If it is deleted I would then like to have an opportunity of discussing whether or not, in substitution for it, we might get those other amendments in, such as the one suggested by Deputy Alton.
I do not see how you will do that. You cannot have it every way.
We consider first of all the deletion of the section, and if the House does not assent to its deletion then we could consider the amendment of the section.
I suggest that it is quite contrary to all parliamentary practice.
I think if Deputies do as I have suggested it will be much better.
It will save a considerable amount of time if we discuss amendments 20 to 23, reject some and carry others, and then finally reject the whole section; but if we do that, then all we will have done will be a waste of time.
That is what always happens, if sections are finally defeated.
I was about to conclude until the points of order were raised. My only regret is that Deputy Alton did not put his amendment as an alternative to the whole section. Then perhaps I would be warmer in my support of it.
Might I correct the Deputy? I did put it down as an alternative to the whole section, but I was corrected in the office and told I could not.
In practice it is.
I was merely going by the Order Paper. It is my belief and the belief of many others in this country that in the Free State as well as in other countries there are numbers of prurient-minded people and busybodies. There are many of those also who possess a sort of flair for literature and who, perhaps, are in a position which some politicians occupy, and about whom a certain halo is present. Many people in literature, as in politics, are prepared to take their opinions from such classes of persons. In a word, they send out their thinking as they send out their washing, and possibly they have a greater concern for the washing than they have for the thinking. A good deal of nonsense has been spoken about this Bill, and possibly I have subscribed somewhat to that myself. At any rate, I would like to see more Deputies making themselves vocal so far as this Bill is concerned. It would be for the benefit of the country as a whole if, on this Bill, we had a little more plain speaking.
The Deputy had better confine himself to plain speaking on the amendment and not on the Bill as a whole.
I think this amendment asks for very little, and it is one to which every thinking man can very easily subscribe. For that reason I have pleasure in supporting it.
I would like to say a few words in support of the view put forward by Deputy Ruttledge, that Section 6 should be deleted from the Bill without substituting anything at all. When considering Deputy Ruttledge's suggestion I feel it will be necessary to refer Deputies to two other amendments on the Paper which are consequent on it, and which will stand or fall with the decision on the section. They are amendments 27 and 30, by which it is proposed to provide that complaints with reference to publications can be submitted to the Minister by any person or association, and that the Minister shall cause such complaints 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 seems to me that there are very many objections to the proposal to recognise associations for the purpose of making complaints in respect to publications. In the first place, I think it is almost inevitable that as soon as the Bill comes into operation and those recognised associations commence to function, an agitation will be started for the purpose of subsidising those associations and providing them with funds to do their work. If such an agitation were started, and if it were backed, as it possibly would be backed, by some of the powerful, semi-religious organisations, it would be very difficult for any Government dependent for its existence on popular vote to resist it. Therefore, if we permit the establishment of recognised associations at all we may as well face the inevitable consequence of having finally to make a vote annually to defray their expenses. It seems to me also that the machinery contemplated in the Bill in which these associations play a principal part is one that will either prove very objectionable or else completely unworkable in practice.
It is impossible to foresee exactly what the result will be, but it seems to me that there can be no reasonable objection to the alternative course provided by which complaints can be made by any person who thinks he has grounds for them. These complaints will be referred to a civil servant in the Department of the Minister, and if that civil servant in his report states to the Minister that there appears to be good ground for such complaint it would proceed through the Minister to the Board. In that way the machinery of the Act will be made workable, and the danger of having discussions in associations upon objectionable books will be obviated. The statement of the Minister for Justice with reference to Deputy Alton's amendment appears to me to condemn it. If that amendment is carried it will mean that there will be something like a public meeting to consider every objectionable publication which somebody discovers. In any case, some steps will have to be taken by somebody to get ten persons together to discuss and read a publication and to draw up the statutory declaration provided in the amendment. It seems an extraordinary thing that in a Bill which is designed to suppress evil literature machinery is provided which will make for its effective dissemination. Those who are anxious to see the Bill operating effectively against the spread of evil literature will be well advised to support the amendment of Deputy Ruttledge and to provide the alternative machinery suggested there.
I am going as far as possible to confine my remarks at the moment to the actual matter before the House, namely, the amendment of Deputy Alton to insert a new sub-section. I recognise, however, that I may have to wander a little outside it, as those who have spoken in front of me have done. Deputy Alton's suggestion is that before a book would be considered by the Censorship Board ten persons would have to come together and would have to read the whole of the book. Why it should be necessary for ten persons, or any person, to read the whole of a book before condemning it, I cannot say. There are books which are blatantly and obviously indecent. You read two or three chapters here, you pick up another chapter there, and you read four chapters out of forty, but before you can make your declaration you have to wade through a quantity of filth which it should be perfectly unnecessary to wade through. You can judge the book, judge the whole of its tendency, by reading certain portions. I recognise that though the matter of reading the whole of the book is in Deputy Alton's amendment the reading of the whole of it may not go to the substance of it.
It may be that persons wishing to make a statutory declaration have read sufficient of the book to form a decision, but, in my judgment at any rate, that is an arrangement which would never work. After all, we are asking voluntary assistance for the working of the Bill. We are asking from the people of the country who think that real harm is being done by evil literature their help and assistance, and I venture to think that we will get it, but I think it is asking a great deal, if you have ten persons unconnected, un-linked up, not forming any part of an association, to get them to go before a Peace Commissioner and to go through the amount of bother and worry that such procedure entails. That is too serious a preliminary to put on voluntary workers. I venture to say that if you have this arrangement by which ten persons could say that they had read the whole, or sufficient of the book to enable them to form an opinion and to make up their minds, you would have two difficulties in the initial stage. Deputy Anthony says that he objects to associations because he does not want anybody to dictate to him what he is going to read. Nobody has dictated to Deputy Anthony that he had to read this Bill, because I am afraid he has not. Deputy Anthony should know that authorised associations, if they stand part of the Bill, will not dictate to him what he is going to read, or that persons who bring information to authorised associations will not dictate to him what he ought to read. The persons who will dictate to Deputy Anthony not exactly what he ought to read but what he ought not to read —and he will commit a criminal offence if he does—will be the Censorship Board and they only.
Deputy Lemass wandered outside the actual amendment considerably. He said that there would be an agitation to subsidise and that the Government would have to subsidise voluntary associations. I do not believe that there would be an agitation to subsidise and, if there were, I do not believe that any Government would have to, or would seriously consider the question of subsidising voluntary associations. What I really look to in the Bill is that you will not only have censorship but that that censorship will only be partly successful unless there is behind it something else, unless you have a really strong public opinion to help and strengthen the decisions of the Censorship Board, unless you have earnest persons who honestly think that this immoral literature is doing harm and who will earnestly work, persons who are going to be paid, or persons whose associations will not put up sufficient voluntary money. It is voluntary work I want and the voluntary payment of money, because that goes to the very essence of the Bill if it is going to re-act properly on public opinion. If you cannot get these people without subsidy I will be terribly disappointed as regards the will to do social work among the people of the country.
Deputy Lemass also said that complaints would be made through civil servants. I do not want to debate that now. That adds nothing to the Bill which says that complaints should be made to the Minister for Justice. The only thing which the amendment says is that the Minister shall not think but that civil servants shall. If a complaint is made to the Minister he will naturally avail himself of the services of certain members of his staff who will come to him with their views. He will see what their views are, what are the nasty things, and probably the complaint will be sent on in the ordinary way by the Minister who will have responsibility. To put responsibility on to civil servants, who will not be responsible to this House or to the Minister who is over them, and to say that the Minister should not exercise that responsibility appears to me to be strange. We will, however, debate that later. Except you take away ministerial control of civil servants, the amendment does not alter the Bill in any way. I submit that this particular amendment, now before us by Deputy Alton, would put too hard a strain upon ordinary social workers who are not associated together. No individual would have any particular sense of duty and, in addition to that, you would have the great trouble of getting individuals to come forward and make a statutory declaration.
I find myself very much in agreement with much that Deputy Lemass has said. I think that there are two important matters to lay stress on. Everything depends, as regards this Bill, on those two things— in the first place, the choice of the Board of Censors and whether they are likely to do their work well or not; and secondly, as the Minister properly said, whether there is real public opinion behind them or not. There must be machinery for setting that Board at work. I am inclined to think that we will get the kernel of the way to do that in this amendment of Deputy Alton. The point I want to discuss is whether any such machinery is necessary. The Minister proposes to take all initiative from the Board of Censors. They are the persons who ought to be the best judges and who ought to know best what they are going to decide. I do not think any such course is necessary. I think it should be open to the Minister to refer matters to them. I think it should be also open to the Board of Censors, if they are aware of there being an adverse decision against a particular book, to report to the Minister without being asked by the Minister so to do. I am not very much afraid of the Board of Censors being overwhelmed by reports from individuals, bodies, or groups of persons. That might occur at first, but I am very doubtful as to whether it would last very long. I am not convinced that any such machinery as the Minister suggests is necessary, and I would be much more disposed to leave the matter over, as I want members to consider that line. I am inclined to think that it is much better to leave it open to persons or an association, if it so desires, to ask the Board of Censors to consider a book or paper or for the Board of Censors to be open on its own initiative to consider a book or paper, or for the Minister, if he so desires, to ask their opinion on a book or paper. I agree very much with Deputy Lemass in many of the reasons which he gave for Deputy Ruttledge's amendment. This section is not going to serve any useful purpose and it may do a great deal of harm if left in the Bill.
I think it is really unfair to these associations if you authorise them only to be a conduit pipe to the Board or the Minister, because any person that comes across a book in a country town in Ireland where there is no association will naturally send it on to some of these associations in Dublin. Everyone of these associations will have to pay secretaries and the volume of work will be great. If you authorise the associations, it is perfectly natural and, I submit, the right thing, for them to ask for payment of their expenses at least, because there you have put them in at least a semi-official position. You cannot expect them to do your work at their expense.
It is their own work—the social work of the country.
Would it not be better to fall back on the old principle of law, that it is the duty of every citizen to protect the general public from evil or crime?
This Bill departs from that, and we want to re-introduce that principle. We do not want to exclude action by the associations, and our amendment No. 27——
I do not want to interrupt the Deputy, but it does prevent individual action. It encourages him to act, but what it says is that the individual should send on to the association such a book, and the association is able to deal with it.
The point that I made was that if the individual is going to send on to the association, and the association is going to be in a position to collect all these books, it will be at considerable expense, and it is only fair that they should be paid for it. Under the normal law I imagine what should happen if the administration of justice is being carried out in the proper way, is that if an individual came across a grossly obscene book, he should be able to hand it on to a policeman, and the policeman should be able to submit it to a magistrate. I do not wish to go into details, but the public should be able to avail of the ordinary channels of justice and be in such a position that a magistrate, or whatever court is sitting, should be able to give judgment on it. In the same way, an ordinary citizen, exercising his rights as a citizen, should be able to send a book to the Minister to be submitted to the Board of Censors. At the same time, if associations like to do the same work, they should be able to do it. That is the purpose of our amendment No. 27. It is necessary to mention that in reference to the deletion of the whole of Section 6.
I am not enthusiastic about Deputy Alton's alternative to Section 6, but I am still less enthusiastic about Section 6 itself. I cannot see why, as so many Deputies have said, it should not be open to the ordinary parent, to the ordinary individual citizen of the country, to have direct access to the Minister in order to complain of abuses of the kind contemplated by this Bill. There is here introduced an element which was not contemplated by the farmers of the report upon which the Bill is based.
There was not a word about such recognised associations in the report of the Committee on Evil Literature. To my mind this section introduces an element which goes far to vitiate the whole Bill, and which has done a great deal to cause the criticism of the Bill about which so much has been made. I believe this section will be unfair to the individual citizen, unfair to the recognised associations which it is proposed to set up, and, furthermore, unfair to the Minister himself. It will be unfair that an individual citizen should be debarred from direct access to the Minister if he wants to make a complaint of a book, unless he is prepared to put his complaint before a recognised association to the members of which, singly or in toto, he may have a complete objection on grounds quite reasonable to himself. I should like to take my own case. Under the operation of this Bill I may be compelled, if I find some book on sale, some book to which I object, to make a complaint to members of a body who have put their names to a denunciation of me for my action in this Dáil. That case may arise all over the country. You may have people with no redress against the abuses which this Bill proposes to remove, unless they are prepared to go on their knees to an association of whose actions in other respects they may disapprove completely, and to act through such an association before they can get to the Minister. The Minister says a citizen has a right to appeal to an association, but who guarantees to the citizen the bona fides of the association? Does the Minister propose, in setting up this association, to guarantee the literacy, the bona fides, the good character, the Christian charity of the individual members of these associations? The ordinary citizen is then to have no right to any kind of direct protest under this Bill.
Now we come to the question of these associations themselves. How are they to be composed? Either each association will have to be a preliminary Censorship Board or else meetings of the association will simply be public meetings when anybody who may have paid a certain subscription and may have a certain altogether irrational, altogether ill-founded opinion of some book or newspaper he has scarcely glanced at, will come along and express a violent opinion about it. There is no third course. Either the association will have to be so carefully selected that it will be equivalent to a censorship board; its members will have to be selected individuals, their bona fides will have to be guaranteed, or else you will recognise associations over whose membership the State has no control whatever, or over whose literacy it has no control, much less over its membership. You will have to take these and confide to these associations the work of pronouncement to a large extent of whether books or periodicals are good or bad for the general citizens of the country, because their opinion will have much greater force than a complaint. These recognised associations will not invariably confine themselves to the work of sending secret complaints to the Minister. They will proceed as well to carry out a public campaign of canvassing against books and newspapers which they have made the subject of complaint, and against the Censorship Board itself.
I cannot, for the life of me, see how exactly it is proposed that these recognised associations will work. As I have said, I should like to know the third course to these two courses I have mentioned. I know very well what many of such associations are like. I have myself been a member and am still a member of an association quite likely to be made a recognised association under this Act. I know that, for example, I was personally denounced as a bad Catholic, or something to that effect, by members of that association in public on an action which the members of the association confessed afterwards they did not understand, and on the terms of a Bill which they confessed they had not read.
I hold that the introduction of this element would be unfair to the private citizen. It would be unfair to the membership of that association itself, because it would be putting on it a duty which such a voluntary association should never be asked to carry out. It would still be more unfair to the Censorship Board and the Minister himself, because it means you are going to set up and sanctify an organisation for the purpose of blackmailing the Minister on every possible occasion and pretext. How can you guarantee that complaints emanating from the recognised association will be confined to this Bill? How are you going to determine that instead of complaints against literature everyone wants banished from the country you will not get complaints about books, not in reality offensive to the general public and the banning of which in itself would be an offence? How are you going to guarantee that you will have complaints confined to indecency at all? How are you going to guarantee that you will not get theological complaints creeping in, complaints about a book which is said to contain blasphemy? You have no guarantee that the recognised association set up will be not only able to make these complaints, but will not also carry out a campaign on the platform and in the Press to force the Minister to overlap and step outside the terms of this Act in obedience to the dictates of the recognised association. The Minister in practice and theory is responsible for his actions in this Dáil. I maintain that by setting up these Censorship Boards you are, to a large extent, taking away from the Minister his responsibility to this Dáil and making him responsible not to the Dáil but to any body of anonymous purity-mongers who may come together on the payment of a small subscription.
Personally I cannot see how any Minister could with equanimity sit down with the prospect of this kind of recognised association hanging over his head in connection with a Bill like this. I do not believe the Minister will get much peace from these bodies. It will not only be a disturbance of his private peace but he will find his name and action broadcasted not only in the Press of this country but in neighbouring countries. There would be constant efforts to compel him to take action to which he himself objects.
He is quite used to that at the moment.
The Minister will have one more serious example of that kind. He is quite used to it when only political sanctions are in question, when he is only responsible to the voters at the polls, but in this case he will be made responsible not only to the voters at the polls but to influences which cut across political divisions and exercise a power out of all proportion to their numerical strength by virtue of the capacity to believe bad things of other people common enough in this country and every other country.
I cannot see how the Minister can contemplate with equanimity the prospect of this type of association hanging over his head, and I cannot see what exact good this type of association is going to do in an Act like this. The only possible argument there is for it is that it will prevent complaints being made. If that is the Minister's object, that it will prevent more numerous complaints from being made, he may achieve it, he may make it difficult for an ordinary parent who may feel offended by a certain periodical or book on sale to make any complaints, but he will make it easier for the very people whose activities should be curbed as far as possible, under a Bill like this, to carry out all kinds of objectionable propaganda, and as a matter of fact give more publicity to evil literature than it has ever got before in this country. I propose to vote against this section, and cannot too strongly express my dislike and disapprobation of it. As far as Deputy Alton's amendment is concerned, I do not think it improves matters very much. I should be perfectly content to delete the section and leave the matter and from under which complaints are to be made to the Minister to be carried out under Section 21 of the Bill.
I do not think Deputy Alton's amendment improves matters very much because, as the Minister has pointed out, it is advertising obscene literature to ask ten of your friends to read an entire book.
I am sorry to interrupt my colleague, Deputy Sir James Craig, but at the very beginning I said I was not wedded to the number ten. I said three would be quite enough, and the Minister very kindly saw the purpose of my amendment and generously interpreted it as I intended it to be interpreted.
My point was that there is no necessity for even three. I stated on the Second Reading, and I still adhere to it, that I could not for the love of me see the reason why an individual could not be able to call attention to any book he happens to read that will be of an obscene character. My opinion is this: If I am reading a book and I come across a section that is obscene there is no necessity for me to continue reading that book. I throw it in the fire, as a general rule. Under the circumstances of this new Act I would feel it my duty to send that book to the Censorship Board. I have the greatest objection to the association because the same thing applies to them. It means that when a complaint is made about a book either a paid secretary is going to judge that book and make a decision or else you are going to have a lot of people reading more obscene literature. At all events, as Deputy Lemass has pointed out, in either of those two directions you are only increasing the advertisement on the notice. Many people would talk of the book. I had occasion quite recently to get a number of books written by a certain authoress and I burned those books in the quiet of my own house because I would not allow any one of my family to look at them. It would be necessary, I suppose, if I objected to those books, for me to call the attention of the Censorship Board to them, at all events, the attention of the association, and that is what I object to. I object entirely to a set of people setting themselves up and pretending that they are going to read these books and to decide upon them. An individual is quite capable of making a decision and of sending the marked part of a book to the Censorship Board.
As the Minister has already said, there is no necessity whatsoever for reading through the whole of an immoral book. Generally, you can find out fairly early what is going to happen. I appeal again, as I appealed on the Second Reading, that the individual should be left the power of sending any book he objects to to the Censorship Board directly, with the passage in the book which he considers of an immoral character indicated. I do object to the section as it stands. I must vote against it. Even Deputy Alton's amendment I do not think is any very great improvement unless he works it down to two people. If he can get two people to sign the thing I would not object, but if I were asked to read over the prurient part and make a declaration I would decline. I think it is quite unnecessary that there should be any calling attention to obscene books by any association. I think the individual is able to act on his own.
I am in the extraordinary position of feeling myself one of the majority. I thought Deputy Tierney and I would find ourselves crying in the wilderness, but it seems to me, from the course the debate has taken, that this is the plight of the Minister. After the speeches of Deputy Ruttledge, Deputy Thrift, Deputy Sir James Craig, of my friend Deputy Tierney and others, it seems that there is almost universal condemnation of the principle of the recognition of any associations and a preference which I share for liberty to be given to the individual to make a complaint. If we in this House had occasion to vote on the principle of Proportional Representation, I should give my number one preference to the proposal of Deputy Ruttledge, my second to that of Deputy Alton, and my third to the Minister.
I shall deal with the Minister's proposal in a moment. But may I just refer, in the first instance, to his reply to the amendment placed on the paper by Deputy Alton? I really was astonished to hear the tone in which he treated that amendment. I must dissent altogether to the proposition he laid down and which I was very sorry to hear Deputy Sir James Craig endorse, namely, that in dealing with so serious a matter as the censorship of literature a person who is taking on himself to denounce the writer of a work as a person who has written a work unsuitable for circulation is under no obligation to read the whole of the book. I think that is an astonishing proposition, and that proposition coming from the Minister is really destructive of all confidence in his judgment. I quite agree that there may be works in which a very slight glance will show the character of the book, but such must be the exception, not the rule. The only safe and just course is to read the book as a whole.
The amendment is that you must read the whole of every book.
I suggest that if men are taking on themselves to attack the property of another—that is what is happening; you are taking away property, and, Deputy Tierney reminds me, character also—they are taking away the property of the author and the property of the publisher, which is a serious matter, even if it be necessary in the interests of the general public. To say that it is too serious a demand to make of the person who voluntarily proceeds to do this, that he should read the whole of the book he condemns, is an astonishing proposition. I think it is an equally astonishing proposition that when a book is of a character whichex hypothesi is improper for general reading and is doing harm and spreading poison through the State, it is putting too great a strain upon the population of the Saorstát to find 10 persons who are willing to come together for the sake of their country to read that book and to sign a declaration that they have done so.
I turn to the consideration of the proposal of the Minister himself. I do not know that there is any matter to which I have given more careful and anxious thought than this question whether or not you should leave the initial steps in this process to the individual or whether you should recognise such associations as the Bill proposes. I have been long aware of the reasons because of which the Minister favours the setting up of these associations. He will correct me if I misinterpret him. He thinks that by setting up associations he will avoid the sending in of merely frivolous complaints and that he will in a sense get rid of the crank and that he will have responsible people with whom to deal. If he is right in that, these are sound reasons which certainly merit great consideration. But I suggest to the Minister, as against that, that there are other considerations even more serious. I do not believe you are getting rid of cranks by recognising them in associations. I think that you will find that your associations will be breeding-grounds for cranks, and that in setting them up the Minister is making a stick to beat his own back. Let us realise what is going to happen. What is going to be the actual process and who are going to exercise the power? You recognise a certain association. Is that association as a whole going to exercise this function? Clearly not. Unless I am wrong altogether in the sort of body which is likely to be recognised for the purposes of the Act, they are bodies with a very large membership spread all over the country.
It is quite obvious that the general members of these associations cannot possibly be able to deal with the matter. Therefore, the actual working of the matter will fall into the hands of committees, or more probably, of subcommittees who will act necessarily in the name of the association. They will be composed of Mr. A, Mr. B, and Mr. C. They may or may not—we cannot tell; we do not know who they are—be wise and literate and well judging persons. If A, B or C came along as an individual I suggest that the Minister would be able to exercise his independent judgment. But they will not come along as A, B or C. To invent a name, they will come along as, say, the National Patriotic Purity Society of Ireland. It is a much more serious thing to seem to turn down a body like that to which statutory recognition has been given, though in actual fact all you are turning down is the opinion of A, B and C. It is very much as if a man, who is not a very good horseman, were to get up on a rather skittish animal and, by way of schooling it over a jump, were deliberately to hire a number of gentlemen with ashplants to stand on the ditch and help the horse over with a few strokes of the ashplants across the rear. I rather think that a good many of these strokes would come across the rider's own back. I very much doubt whether the Minister is going to benefit the working of the Act, increase his reputation, or make for sympathetic and decent working and for the respect which should be due to all Acts of this Oireachtas by taking the course of setting up these associations. The Minister will understand that I am not speaking of Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, but of a person named in the Act— the Minister for Justice, whoever he may chance at any time to be. The Minister for Justice will, I think, as Deputy Tierney has said, have very great difficulty once he sets up these associations in exercising that independent judgment which the Act requires of him and which I know the present holder of the office individually desires to exercise.
I will just typify the speeches to which we have listened as "much ado about nothing." I do not believe that there is a shadow of foundation or truth in the statement that has emerged from the two Deputies who have spoken. What is to be the function of these recognised associations when they are set up? One would have thought by listening to the two Deputies who have just sat down that the House was giving them the power of life and death. What does it amount to? It amounts to this: That the whole function of these recognised associations when created is simply to report certain works of an indecent character to the Censorship Board. There their function begins and ends. All these suggestions about propaganda, about appeals to the public, all these terrible things about what is going to happen if we take away all the tremendous rights and liberties of the subject, are simply pure figments of the imagination. If one looks at the power that the Minister in sub-section (2) exercises over these associations, one can see that the setting up of these associations is the really practical method by which this particular end of the question should be handled. Sub-section (2) of Section 6 says:—
The Minister may at any time revoke an order made by him under the foregoing sub-section, and upon such order being revoked the recognised association to which such order relates shall cease to be a recognised association.
Is there not complete power in the hands of the Minister if that association does not function in a proper way? Why draw all these lurid pictures which are simply pictures of the imagination and nothing else? Let us look at this in a common-sense way and treat it as a man of common sense should treat it. We are not giving, as I said, the power of life and death, and taking away the liberty of the subject, but simply dealing with the matter by the social workers of this country who have done so much to bring forward this Bill and to make it a live measure, and a measure that is of interest to every section of the people at present.
I was surprised to hear the two Deputies who belong to the particular religious line of thought to which I myself belong making such an attack on these associations. Deputy Tierney went on to say that he had been attacked in public by these associations, one of which would probably be one of the associations set up under the Bill. When a man comes to this House to perform a public duty he must have rather a thick skin and be prepared to take a hard knock and reply to it. I myself have been the subject of attack by certain journals belonging to my own way of belief. Does it prevent me from standing up to support the inevitable right of these associations when questioned in this House? I say that they are the proper people to deal with this particular aspect of the Bill and that we are showing very poor respect for all that these associations have done from time to time for this country if, in a national assembly of this kind, the rights of these associations are turned down.
We are asked in this amendment to make a declaration that the whole of a book must be read. Was there ever such nonsense put before a sensible assembly? The Minister, in replying to that statement, made it perfectly clear that it is not necessary for any sensible individual to read the whole of a book before coming to the conclusion whether the book is bad, good or indifferent. The question that we should ask ourselves is: Is the amendment going to make for the better or more effective working of the Bill? If we are going to leave this in the hands of the general public, there is a very old saying that crystallises the whole thing in a nutshell: "What is everybody's business is nobody's business." We all know when we go on the hustings how difficult it is to get an individual to record his vote at the poll. Here, because it is proposed to put in the hands of certain recognised associations functions that we know they will properly discharge, we are taking away all the rights and liberties of the subject! Was there ever such "bunkum" used in a sensible assembly such as this?
Let us get to the bedrock of these things. The Minister retains effective control over these associations if they do not function in a proper and reasonable way. Anybody who reads Section 7 in conjunction with Section 6 can only come to one conclusion: that the Minister is acting in a way that is making for the effective operation of the Act. Section 7 says:
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...
the Minister may refer such complaint to the Board. You are not going to give that much liberty of action to the recognised associations. You are taking away the liberties of the subject and all the sacred rights of the citizen by handing this over to the associations which, as I have already said, will handle this thing in a proper way. What have the social workers of the country already done for the uplifting of the people? Do you imagine that if you leave the social work contained in this Bill to the effort of individuals you are ever going to have an effective censorship over the evil literature of the country? The suggestions coming from Deputies Law and Tierney are not suggestions that one would expect from educated men. They are not suggestions that one would expect from broad-minded men or suggestions that anyone would make who has the interests of the Bill at heart. I support wholeheartedly the Minister and ask him to retain the section.
We have listened to some vigorous speeches, but whether they were relevant or not I am not quite clear. I do mean relevant to the amendment because we realise pretty early that you cannot discuss the amendment without discussing the section. I do not know whether they were relevant to the Bill because the forcible statements by Deputy Law and Deputy Tierney would apply whether you recognise the associations or not. In fact a complaint especially by Deputy Tierney is that the associations which are not recognised have already been very active. It is not proposed in any amendment that we not merely do not recognise the associations but we prohibit the associations, and the force of the speeches of Deputy Law and Deputy Tierney disappears altogether unless we prohibit the associations from acting too. Deputy Law made a very strong case, for instance, that it is one thing to turn down a complaint by an individual and another thing to turn it down if made by one of those very big associations. Does Deputy Law intend to prevent these associations making complaints?
The very fact that an association is singled out for statutory recognition gives it that place that it otherwise would not have.
But the argument is that the association is a powerful association.
Its power is increased by recognition.
The force of the argument is that an association is powerful and that you can turn down an individual but not an association. I suggest as long as the associations are in existence, as long as they can, under any amendments in this Bill, make complaints, most of the things that Deputy Tierney and Deputy Law have said apply, and apply very fully.
I cannot, I quite confess, follow what Deputy Law found fault with in the Minister's reply to Deputy Alton's amendment. Deputy Law gets choked at one moment when the Minister said that a man could condemn a book without having read the whole of it, but then he went on immediately to say, of course, there are books with which you can do that. That was what the Minister was referring to. It is high treason for the Minister to say it, but it is wisdom for Deputy Law to say it.
I would be very sorry to be accused of such absurd criticism as that. I am a very inferior person, a mere back-bencher, while the Minister is a person of vast experience and knowledge. It is not, nevertheless, true that the proposition which the Minister laid down is an obvious one, that it was not necessary to read a book in order that you could understand it.
I did not say you never should read a book.
It is quite clear there are a number of books which you can, after reading very little of, decide their character. We are at one on that. That is what the Minister contended for. Therefore he and the Deputy are at one.
That was not what I understood the Minister to say.
If you read half of it you know enough.
A dangerous doctrine!
The Minister must be allowed to make his speech without further interruption.
This is purely incidental. The amendment itself makes it necessary that ten people or three people or one person should read the whole of the book before they could make a complaint. Deputy Law will admit that in case of certain books that is not necessary. There may be books on the border line which it would be unfair to condemn without having read through them. That is quite obvious. So is the other thing equally obvious. Therefore, whatever stands, it is quite obvious that in this sense Deputy Alton's amendment cannot stand; but the number ten does not suit. I doubt if the statutory declaration is necessary, and, really, to read the whole of the book is not necessary.
The statutory declaration is necessary—some assurance.
Some assurance that a person goes before a Peace Commissioner in his office and he says: "I do not like that book. I have not read the whole of it," and that is all. There is very little in it.
I want the individual to come into the open.
He does not go into the open by going to the Peace Commissioner's house and making a complaint. So far as the merits of the case are concerned I put it to the House that yesterday the Bill, so far as its real effectiveness is concerned—that is, its real work—was seriously interfered with by the amendment passed. I am strongly of that opinion. Supposing the Bill has become an Act and there are a number of people in the country who want to prevent it from working, as there are a number of people, I presume, strongly opposed to the Bill, the easiest way possible to obstruct it would be to put in complaint after complaint of a number of books.
Not quite ineffective if the complaints are taken seriously; if they are turned down without further examination, quite so, but it is meant. Everybody suggests that everybody should read the whole of the book. I think a statutory declaration is required also from the members of the Board. It is quite obvious a man could constantly send in book after book of which passages could be marked. Most of the classics in various languages and other very important books could be objected to on this ground. A glut could be immediately produced unless there was some canalisation. You do not get rid of recognised associations by refusing to recognise them. They will be still active. In addition you have practically every crank in the country. I admit the rights of the individual are there. If you want the Bill to work and want the associations to have a little more responsibility in their criticism I think it would be better in the long run to throw responsibility upon them. You will not prevent their activity by refusing to recognise them. I think you will have a healthier effect in the long run on the associations themselves if you throw responsibility upon them in this respect.
The first thing we have to consider is the amendment put forward by Deputy Alton and I ask the House first of all to reject that amendment. Then I ask Deputies to consider very carefully what the position is before they take the step of rejecting the proposal with regard to recognised associations. There is, I presume, no objection whatsoever to the adoption of one of Deputy Thrift's suggestions, namely, that the Board, without being approached by anybody, should be able to suggest to the Minister that they would consider certain books. I think that is quite reasonable. There is no reason why that should not be adopted. There is no reason why the Minister himself should not take the initiative and, if it is necessary, he should have a provision of that kind in the Bill. I am sure the Minister will be prepared to accept suggestions of that kind.
There has been a lot of very forceful denunciation in the course of the debate, but I suggest that most of the denunciation has nothing to do with the particular argument we are now considering. It would be quite as relevant whether the associations were recognised or not. The proof of it is that a lot of it had to do with an association which is not yet recognised. Therefore, it is quite obvious that a great deal of it applies whether or not you recognise the association. The argument was received with a great deal of sympathy in the House, I noticed, and also it bears out what I am stressing, that it had actually nothing to do with the merits of the case that we are now discussing.
I am not at all surprised there is a great deal of distress about these associations. Deputy Byrne, with unnecessary warmth, repudiated the speeches of his two colleagues. I did not appreciate it altogether, because both Deputy Law and Deputy Tierney have been subjected by some of the associations to very unfair criticism. I cannot understand how these associations could be considered impartial. They have concentrated on one Commandment, and when they have done with that Commandment there are other Commandments before and after it and they do not touch them, though they see offences every day. There is another reason for distress in respect of these associations. We know their methods of propaganda in the past. We know that the papers they disapproved of were papers even like the "Observer" and the "Sunday Times." They went out with revolvers and burned these papers. I am sorry to see the Minister did not give the matter more sympathetic consideration. I believe there is a great deal of nervousness about how these associations will work.
I quite agree with one thing that Deputy Hennessy says, namely, the absolutely unfair kind of criticism that has gone on in this connection. I was dealing not with the merits of what Deputy Tierney said, but with its irrelevancy to the argument that we are now discussing. The fairness of what he said proves its irrelevancy. I suggest we should first dispose of Deputy Alton's amendment and the other amendments and then get on to the section.
I would like to say one word in explanation with regard to the points of my argument. I foresee that individuals will be compelled to make complaints about books to associations, to the membership of which, or the actions of which, in some way or other they may object. I referred to my own case as a possible example of this kind, but I do not want to make that a direct argument in the matter. I simply wanted to say that I thought it unfair that ordinary citizens should be debarred from making complaints direct to the Minister and should be compelled to make complaints to associations over whom they had no control and in whose membership or actions they might possibly have no confidence.
I think it might be well to make it plain, in view especially of the many resolutions that Deputies have received from various parts of the country with reference to this Bill—resolutions which seem to condemn any and every amendment to the original Bill, even though some of the amendments are specifically designed to strengthen the Bill—to make plain that the matter we are now discussing is merely concerned with the machinery of the Bill and has nothing to do with the general principles of the measure. It is purely a matter for the House in its wisdom to devise what it thinks is the best machinery to make this Bill effective. I will say right at the beginning that I am not enamoured of, and would not vote for, Deputy Alton's amendment. It has many objections which have already been effectively pointed out by other speakers. At the same time I want to say that the Committee who prepared the report on which the whole Bill is founded did not recognise this particular type of machinery. I do not say that they recommended any particular type of machinery, but I want to make it clear that this machinery that is in the Bill has not been taken from the report. It is not part of the Committee's report. It has been devised entirely by the Minister himself as what he thinks is the best way to make the Bill effective. I want to support what Deputy Thrift said—that the members of that Committee—that is my memory at any rate —contemplated that the Board itself would initiate and have the right to initiate complaints to the Minister. As I read the Bill, that right is taken from them.
We agreed to it.
As it exists at present, that right is taken from them. I mention that just to show that the Minister's decisions in this matter are not necessarily infallible.
I did not say they were.
He says now that it would be wrong to take that initiative from the Board. There is another thing I want to mention arising out of Deputy Byrne's speech. Indeed I might say the statement has been made outside as well as inside this House. Deputy Byrne spoke of the rights of these associations, that the rights of these associations would be turned down if they were not recognised in this Bill. Who gave these associations rights in this matter? They have not any right. Deputy Byrne very warmly denounced those who would turn down the rights of these associations. I do not know what associations Deputy Byrne has in mind. I have no idea of what associations he is speaking. But the associations do not exist at all as a matter of fact until they are recognised by the Minister. Therefore, there are no associations to be spoken of in the sense that Deputy Byrne speaks of these.
With regard to these associations it is purely with the question of machinery that we are concerned. The Minister will recognise associations. We have not heard from the Minister what lines he will go on in recognising the associations—what will be the basis of the recognition which he will give the associations. Will he recognise the associations that are already existing and only the associations that are already existing or may new associations spring up in every parish and half parish throughout the country and how is he to prevent that and what right has he to recognise one and not recognise another, which may be similarly constituted? All these troubles will arise. The Minister has not stated anywhere the basis of recognition which he will employ in giving recognition to these associations. I think that members of the House, and certainly people outside the House, are assuming too much in this connection. They have one or two large associations in their minds and they are assuming that these associations and these only will be the recognised associations. I submit that we have no right to assume that at all. To my mind there is a lot in the argument that has been made that, say, for the moment, the association which had a membership extending to the greater part of the country will be the recognised association. Who is going to act in the name of that association? Will it be the association that is acting when that is done?
They must appoint, I submit, a Board of five or nine, and these will be the people who will be acting in the name of the association. Then in respect of every report that comes in, you will have, in fact, not one official, but two official censorship boards; that is to say, you will have the official Censorship Board and the semi-official board, consisting of the directorate of this association, and you will have a whole series of these boards or directorates, or whatever you call them, all over the country. If I have a report to make with regard to an obscene book, I am in a difficulty. I must fish out the association to whom I have to make the report or I must be a member of an association. My right to go direct to the Minister, as I have pointed out, seems to be taken from me by this particular machinery. Deputy Byrne says that the general public cannot handle this matter, that what is everybody's business will be nobody's business. Well, if there is not a considerable volume of public opinion behind this measure then the agitation for it is only an artificial agitation, and in that matter I believe the ordinary citizen will do his duty and make complaints if he thinks a complaint should be made. The principal objection, so far as I can understand the objection, to this particular type of machinery is what the Minister for Education calls the canalisation of the complaints. I do believe that after the first year of the working of the Act the number of complaints will be very small, and they will be such, in any case, that the Board can deal with them. The right of any association to make complaints will not be denied and will not be prevented. I do not wish to prevent any association that wishes to lodge a complaint from making it, be it a vigilance society or any other kind of society.
In the main it is quite possible that the majority of those that will complain will complain to the association, but I would not confine it entirely to those associations. I believe that normally after some time the complaints will be few. For the first year, perhaps, until the policy of the Board is understood in the country and until it is understood that every newspaper will be kept out that prints something that some person thinks foolish—until that is done there may be complaints, but afterwards the number of complaints will be small. I believe it would be wrong, and it would not make for the effective working of this measure if those who had complaints are forced, whether they like it or not, to send their complaints through a recognised association. My chief complaint is that I cannot see, and I cannot contemplate, the line which the Minister will follow or can safely follow in recognising these associations. On what basis can he set up these associations? What basis can he follow in giving recognition to certain associations and refusing it to other associations?
I made that clear. I explained that in the Second Reading speech, and Deputies know I have not spoken on the section yet. I have only spoken on Deputy Alton's amendment.
Perhaps to clear the air and get the discussion on a more direct line it would be as well if I withdrew my amendment. I would like it to be understood that I put in that amendment as a nail to knock out a nail, to knock out Section 6, and I tried to embody in my amendment the principle I saw violated in Section 6. I think the House is largely with me in their desire to uphold the principle of citizenship. I do not insist that my amendment is perhaps worded in the wisest and most perfect way, but I do put in something to draw attention to Section 6, and the position there as it presents itself to me. I will reserve any thing more I have to say. I do not want to delay the House. I think it will bring the discussion more to a point if I withdraw the amendment, and let the discussion go directly on Section 6, whether that will stand part of the Bill or not.
I beg to move amendments 20 and 23. The amendments read:—
In sub-section (1), line 34, after the word "may" to insert the words "on the advice of the Board."
In sub-section (2), line 38, after the word "time" to insert the words "on the advice of the Board."
The object of these amendments is to act as a check on the Minister who, at some future time, may be disposed to act arbitrarily and to disfranchise a group or association that might be giving some trouble in the way of their complaints or who might incur a certain amount of hostility. I think that there should be an opportunity given to approach the Board.
This amendment is not really of tremendous importance. "May on the advice of the Board or without the advice of the Board"—I do not think that is of very great importance. It would, if these associations were recognised, form a Board, as it were, to be the choosers of their own sources of supply. It would make them the choosers of the persons who would give them the information. It would work so that these would be of their own choice. I do not, as I say, consider the matter is of very great importance, but I think it would be rather better if it were slightly differently worded. "Made after consultation with the Board" would be better, as I do not like dropping Ministerial control, because if you drop it you drop Parliamentary control.
I presume that the Minister will bring in an amendment on the Report Stage to deal with this?
"In sub-sections (1) and (2), lines 35, 36, 40 and 41, to delete the words ‘recognise' and ‘recognised,' and substitute in each case the words ‘authorise'' and ‘authorised,' respectively."
This amendment is only intended if we retain this section. I think the word "authorise" would be better.
I would be obliged if the Deputy would explain the distinction as I am not clear about it.
I think the word "authorised" definitely carries the implication that you, as a Minister, have authorised an association to act in this way. It may be construed to mean that, but I only throw it out as a suggestion.
They are authorised to make complaints but not to judge books, and whether they are recognised or authorised does not matter very much.
I am, of course, hoping that the section is going to go.
In sub-section (1), lines 35-6, to delete the words "group or association of persons" and substitute the words "any of three associations which were in existence prior to the introduction of this Bill.
When I framed this amendment I thought it was understood that complaints about books were only to be made through associations, and that after the passing of the Bill a great many associations would spring up, that there might, in fact, be an association in almost every parish. Therefore I thought it might be better to limit the number of associations which would bring objectionable matter under the notice of the Board.
This amendment would limit the number of associations to those which are already in existence. Deputy O'Connell, on this question of associations, asked in what sense the Bill would be administered. The way, I take it, in which a Bill of this nature would be administered is that the fact that associations were existing associations would not impede but rather encourage their recognition. It would not, however, be necessary in order to be recognised as an association that it should be in existence prior to the passing of the Act. My idea would be that you would have a series of associations, not very many, not an overwhelming number, but a reasonable number, and have them so that they were not really substantially overlapping. To have an authorised association in every parish with nothing to do but to get a book, perhaps several years after it was published, and to authorise parish associations such as that would be rather absurd. To say that every association should be in Dublin, and to say that it should not be authorised because it was in Cork, Limerick, or Waterford would be equally absurd. If there is room for associations, if there are gaps in associations, it would be good to have them filled up. It may be that in these country towns it would be very useful to have an authorised association. There is one writer, I need not mention the name, whose books have been circulating for a considerable number of years. I have not read them, and, therefore, I have not been under Deputy Sir James Craig's temptation to make a bonfire, but it is well known that these particular books are extremely immoral.
I was told by members of the Booksellers' Association, who were kind enough to speak to me about this Bill, that in a great number of small country towns there is a very great sale for the books of that particular writer. Here in Dublin there is no sale at all, but in some small country towns there is a considerable sale for the writings of that particular lady, and it would be quite possible that an association in Dublin, if it were confined to Dublin, would only deal with the sort of literature that was doing harm to the city. My idea is that there should be a limited number of associations throughout the country. I do not believe that social workers are confined to Dublin. I believe that there are people outside Dublin who are very willing to be social workers. These are people to whom I think associations should be extended, a reasonable number of them who will be constituted by well-known social workers and who will, because they have responsibilities thrown upon them, undertake this work and be able to carry it out satisfactorily. I cannot accept an amendment that their numbers should be confined.
The Minister used the words "authorised associations." Could he say from whom they get authority? He says that a limited number of associations may be formed, but where will they get recognition or authority?
It is in the Bill. They would get it from the Minister for Justice, who authorises.
I would like to ask the Minister whether on the next stage of the Bill he would insert a sub-section giving a right to the individual to bring a complaint before the Board directly, because an individual reading a book and finding in it some obscene passages, sentences or chapters, may not be in a position to bring such book before a recognised association. I think such individual should have a right to get into direct contact with the Board. I do not think it is right to shut out individuals from bringing complaints directly before the Board. While I wish those associations should be recognised and authorised, I say that the individual should have that right. The Minister should remember that in this country there are many circulating libraries, including the Carnegie libraries, and that a number of books get into circulation, some of which are scarcely fit to be taken into the homes of our people. If we are to get our citizens to purify the literature which is now being broadcast throughout the country I think that this Bill when it comes back to us on the next stage should have a sub-section as indicated inserted to make it successful in that respect.
There was an amendment in my name to delete this section. I do not know whether that was regarded as a direct negative or not.
The Deputy can vote against the section.
On the section itself, naturally I have, to a certain extent, dealt with the section in the discussion which has been carried on this afternoon. I would like the House very seriously to consider this matter, because as far as books are concerned this entire Bill may be a complete failure. I think it would be very lamentable indeed if this Bill failed. I think it necessary that indecent books and indecent pamphlets, pamphlets other than indecent periodicals, should be checked, and I think that official machinery should be set up for that. I think that that is a matter to which the House should give very careful consideration, and that no hasty turning down of these recognised associations or proposed recognised associations should take place. Deputy Colohan said that there might be persons and recognised associations. Of course, whether there should be persons able to make complaints, as well as recognised associations, does not arise upon this section. The question is solely whether there shall be in existence authorised associations or not, because, if this section fails, there can be no authorised associations, and in consequence the alternative which the Deputy put up, persons or authorised associations, will not arise. If this section goes down, then you will have no authorised associations at all. You will have the condition that the Board of Censors may initiate itself. I am willing to agree to that, but the Board of Censors will have a great deal of work to do in censoring, and it cannot be reasonably expected to examine as to what should be censored as well as actually to censor publications. The kind of initiating it can do will be little, and you will be left without any organised effort at all. You will trust entirely to unorganised effort. You say organised effort is wrong.
On a point of explanation, I am in favour of the recognition or authorisation of these associations, but I would also like a sub-section inserted, on the next stage of the Bill, giving the right to the individual citizen to make complaints direct to the Board of Censors.
That should come in on Section 7, not on Section 6.
No one has suggested that the right should be taken away from an authorised association.
I say you are making no attempt in this Bill to organise effort in this country, making no attempt to organise effort to do the work. If you authorise associations, then you are getting together certain persons all over the country who will be organised, and who will have undertaken the work. You will have organised effort. If you have no authorised association, you will have no organised effort. You will have some associations possibly working, but they will not be able to do organised work. They will not be working together with other associations. They will not be in harmony with other associations, and they will have no public duty imposed upon them. That is, to my mind, a matter of very great importance. Supposing a new book is published and it comes into this country. Who is to read the book? Who is to discover as to whether that is an immoral or a moral book? If you have an authorised association, the authorised association has undertaken to do some work. The authorised association will, I take it, read publishers' circulars, and some of the literary reviews, so that they will have some general idea of the tendency a book or pamphlet will have. It will have undertaken to do that work. It will do that work. It will be nobody's business to do it, unless there is some authorised association. Books will simply pass unnoticed.
It is said that the private individual will also do it, and that the private individual's rights should not be taken away. There is nothing which takes away the private individual's right, but consider this. Suppose you have no association, suppose there is one particular objectionable article in a paper, some Sunday paper or some particular book. You may discover a whole stack of these papers or dozens of books may suddenly arrive at the unfortunate Department of Justice some morning. The papers may come from all over the country—one edition of such-and-such a paper. You may have your office stacked up with it. For the next week you may have nothing at all. That may happen for three or four weeks, and you have nothing to send to the Censor because it must be habitual. The House is agreed that a newspaper is not to be condemned for one particular article. If you have a local association that has undertaken to do this work it will see these papers constantly. Someone will look at them constantly and will see that the Censor is supplied. Deputy O'Connell seems to suggest that he was not doing away with associations. He did not want to do away with the associations. In fact, I rather gathered from Deputy O'Connell that he would like the associations to work. He does not want to condemn associations. If he does not want to condemn the associations why does he condemn the authorisation of these associations?
What I am condemning is the right you are taking from the individual, that he must work through the association.
That is Section 7. We have not come to that. We are on Section 6. Deputy O'Connell says "There are to be no authorised associations. They are not to come into existence at all." There is no question on this particular section as to whether complaints are to come through authorised associations.
What guarantee will the public have that even these associations or any member of the association will have read that book? The section as it at present stands does not even suggest that they shall have read it. We have no guarantee that any member of the association would have read the book.
Might I read Section 6 to the House, because no one seems to have the remotest idea of what it is about. Section 6 is:—
(1) The Minister may by an order made under this sub-section recognise for the purpose of this Act any group or association of persons (in this Act referred to as a recognised association).
(2) The Minister may at any time revoke an order made by him under the foregoing sub-section and upon such order being revoked the recognised association to which such order relates shall cease to be a recognised association.
What you are discussing here is shall there be recognised association or shall there not be, not as to who makes the complaint. You have not come to that yet.
The reason I object is I am against the clause altogether. I would prefer to see the clause deleted and another substituted for it. I am altogether opposed to the whole question of association.
The Deputy must allow the Minister to make his speech.
It is quite competent for me to make an objection.
The Deputy must not interrupt the Minister.
The Deputy is entitled to speak.
When the Minister has concluded.
The word "association" enters into it, and I am altogether opposed to it.
I take it Deputy Anthony is against it because the word "association" enters into it. I take it Deputy O'Connell is not against associations. Deputy Anthony thinks there cannot be a useful association. Deputy O'Connell does admit that in certain circumstances, by some strange accident, there may be some association which would be of some use. Is that what I am to understand, because otherwise what is the harm in having authorised associations?
There is every harm in it.
My rhetorical question was not meant to be answered. I will put it this way: there is no harm in having a recognised association.
On a point of order, would the Minister explain what he means by an authorised association?
That is not a point of order. Deputy Anthony will get every opportunity of making a speech.
I want the Minister to explain what he means by authorised associations.
I have endeavoured to explain that it is one authorised by the Minister to make reports to the Minister for Justice, who will send all those reports to the Censorship Board. That is what an authorised association means. Shall you authorise an association is the one question you have got here? Deputy Anthony is perfectly logical. I quite understand that Deputy Anthony objects to an association. I do not suggest Deputy O'Connell objects to all associations, but if you do not object to an association for this particular purpose why object to the authorisation of that? Why not have your associations drilled up, so to speak, in battalions doing the work? What is the harm?
Surely the Minister does not envisage battalions of associations.
The Deputy must not interrupt the Minister.
I want to assist the Minister in every way I can.
The Deputy will assist the Minister if he remains silent until the Minister has concluded his speech.
Twelve or fifteen associations probably would be sufficient to work the whole country without any over-lapping, and would do the work very successfully. Even if there were less, what is the objection to authorising them? People come forward and say "Authorise us; give us the position. Let us have this work. We are willing to do it, and it will not be left to a haphazard effort." At present if this Section is deleted there is no possibility of your having authorised associations who would be entitled to do the work, and this question of whether a report is to go solely through the authorised association or is to go through persons as well as the authorised association is a thing which comes up on a completely different section.
took the Chair.
Will these associations refuse to do the work if they are not authorised?
I do not know what associations you refer to, because there are some existing associations and others will come into existence. I am pretty certain they will. I think if those associations have got the responsibility upon them they will keep steadily and constantly at the work. They will know it is their work. They have to do this job. They will not be, as is the great danger, very active for a short time and then after a little sporadic effort everything dies out. I do not want that. I want the thing to go on steadily and constantly, not possibly running away with the wrong book in a great state of excitement and then cooling down and letting nothing be done for a number of years. You will have your censors fed by the steady stream of those associations and there will be a considerable amount of work for those associations to do.
I have always had a great deal of doubt about this section in the Bill. I have always been very doubtful whether it was wise to create these authorised or recognised associations, but any doubts I have had have been removed by the speech of the Minister. I can only compare it to the attitude of the chief of a South African tribe who kept a tribe of witchdoctors to smell out persons supposed to be guilty of immoral practices. The Minister cannot do it himself; he cannot check immoral literature, and he is going to authorise associations to point out the sins of various books. He has asked us what is the objection to authorisation. My objection to authorisation is that the State is abdicating its functions and devolving them on private associations, associations authorised or recognised by the State, not supported by the State, but by private subscriptions. I would say, with all respect to them, that they are likely to give way to the wishes of their subscribers. In any private association, whatever Church it may belong to, if it is supported by voluntary subscriptions, it cannot ignore the wishes of large subscribers. They may be forced to bring forward complaints which have no real grounds because one or two large subscribers insist on their doing so. The Minister said it is impossible for the State itself to take on this function of examining books. How is it impossible? An efficient censorship department can do it. It is being done at the present time.
The Minister is issuing prohibition orders against the importation of certain books. He furnished a list of those books to Deputy Tierney about five months ago. If he can examine books and prevent their importation, why cannot he examine books and prevent their sale? He is, as a matter of fact, charged with the function of preventing the sale of obscene books, and the Gárda Siochána have powers to prevent the sale of obscene books. The Minister must, therefore, have some control in his Department and some examination of books. He does not need outside organisation to advise him and call attention to complaints. But if there is to be any outside intervention, is it not the most undemocratic thing in the world to confine that intervention to certain recognised associations? Is the ordinary citizen to be deprived of his right to complain?
That is Section 7, not Section 6.
That is a very nisi prius point. We have all been, from Deputy Lemass and Deputy Ruttledge down to back-benchers, mentioning amendments to Section 7 as well as to Section 6. But the issue arises on Section 6, because it establishes and recognises these associations, and I for one cannot vote for it. I approve the purpose of the Bill and I believe it can be made workable, having had some experience of censorship. It can be made workable in the Minister's Department without recognised associations at all. It is repugnant to me, and I think it is repugnant to almost every member of the Dáil, that we should set up certain associations for the definite object of smelling out what they consider to be evil and obscene, and then being liable to being rejected, first by the Minister and secondly by the Censorship Board, and in either case with a sense of indignation for being turned down and an agitation against the whole machinery of the censorship. There are two or three books in circulation that I want to see stopped, but this is not the machinery by which they will effectively be stopped. I cannot support the section.
One of the principal points which the Minister made in advocating this section was that it was essential to the proper working of the Bill. He urged that if the section be deleted the Bill may fail, but these recognised associations, I take it, even from the point of view of their sponsor, are not going to act as censors in the country. The evil which the Bill proposes to remedy is going, I hope, to be effectively dealt with by the Board of Censors. The Board of Censors will still remain, even if Section 6 disappears, and if the Board of Censors does its work the Bill will not have have failed by reason of the deletion of Section 6. Up to the present there has been a certain public demand for this Bill. That public demand, I believe, has been largely organised by existing associations. They feel that they have certain duties towards the citizens of this country. They feel that they have certain duties towards their fellow men. I do not believe, whether they have recognition or not, they will feel that they are no longer their brothers' keepers. They will still feel that there are certain things it would not be right should have general circulation in this country, and I am sure, whether they are recognised or not, they will take the necessary and proper steps to bring those publications under the notice of the Board of Censors. We feel that possibly it is desirable that there should be certain organisations acting in that way. There may be differences of opinion in regard to that, because organisations might be able to bring pressure to bear upon the Board of Censors. They would possibly, on occasions, practically compel the Board to give decisions not in accordance with the Board's own real opinion. On the whole, possibly it is desirable that there should be certain organisations doing this work. But while we recognise the necessity for organisations it is quite another matter to give State recognition to them, and that is the whole purpose of this section. Once you give these associations a certain recognised function and status in the State, once you charge them with a certain duty which involves them in the expense of procuring books, of providing a secretariat, of meeting postage expenses and other things, you will inevitably be met with the demand on the part of those associations that this expenditure which they incurred in doing the work with which they have been charged by the State should be defrayed by the State. The consequence of that will be that in order to justify their maintaining a secretariat, and in order to justify this subvention by the State you will have these organisations vieing with one another in establishing little boards of review in every town and village of Ireland which the Minister himself contemplated, and manifesting in every village a great zeal for the public morals by procuring, reading and discussing all the objectionable literature they can get their hands on. I can foresee the state of affairs that is going to spring up under this section. I believe that most reasonable men in the House really do wish the Censorship Bill to be effective, and they are anxious that the section should be deleted from the Bill.
- Aird, William P.
- Blythe, Ernest.
- Bourke, Séamus A.
- Brodrick, Seán.
- Byrne, John Joseph.
- Carey, Edmund.
- Cassidy, Archie J.
- Coburn, James.
- Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
- Conlan, Martin.
- Connolly, Michael P.
- Cosgrave, William T.
- Crowley, James.
- Daly, John.
- Davis, Michael.
- Doherty, Eugene.
- Dolan, James N.
- Doyle, Peadar Seán.
- Duggan, Edmund John.
- Dwyer, James.
- Esmonde, Osmond Thos. Grattan.
- Everett, James.
- Fitzgerald, Desmond.
- Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
- Hassett, John J.
- Heffernan, Michael R.
- Hennessy, Michael Joseph.
- Henry, Mark.
- Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
- Holohan, Richard.
- Jordan, Michael.
- Kelly, Patrick Michael.
- Keogh, Myles.
- Lynch, Finian.
- Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
- McFadden, Michael Og.
- McGilligan, Patrick.
- Mongan, Joseph W.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Murphy, James E.
- Nally, Martin Michael.
- Nolan, John Thomas.
- O'Connell, Richard.
- O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
- O'Hanlon, John F.
- O'Leary, Daniel.
- O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
- Reynolds, Patrick.
- Roddy, Martin.
- Shaw, Patrick W.
- Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
- White, Vincent Joseph.
- Wolfe, George.
- Wolfe, Jasper Travers.
- Allen, Denis.
- Alton, Ernest Henry.
- Anthony, Richard.
- Blaney, Neal.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Boland, Patrick.
- Bourke, Daniel.
- Brady, Seán.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Broderick, Henry.
- Buckley, Daniel.
- Carney, Frank.
- Carty, Frank.
- Clery, Michael.
- Colbert, James.
- Gorry, Patrick J.
- Goulding, John.
- Haslett, Alexander.
- Hayes, Seán.
- Hennessy, Thomas.
- Holt, Samuel.
- Houlihan, Patrick.
- Jordan, Stephen.
- Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
- Kent, William R.
- Kerlin, Frank.
- Killane, James Joseph.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Kilroy, Michael.
- Law, Hugh Alexander.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- Little, Patrick John.
- Maguire, Ben.
- McDonogh, Martin.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Moore, Séumas.
- Cole, John James.
- Colohan, Hugh.
- Cooney, Eamon.
- Corkery, Dan.
- Corish, Richard.
- Corry, Martin John.
- Craig, Sir James.
- Crowley, Fred, Hugh.
- Crowley, Tadhg.
- Davin, William.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- Doyle, Edward.
- Fahy, Frank.
- Fogarty, Andrew.
- Good, John.
- Mullins, Thomas.
- Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
- Myles, James Sproule.
- O'Connell, Thomas J.
- O'Connor, Bartholomew.
- O'Dowd, Patrick Joseph.
- O'Kelly, Seán T.
- O'Leary, William.
- O'Mahony, Dermot Gun.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- O'Reilly, Thomas.
- O'Sullivan, Gearoid.
- Powell, Thomas P.
- Rice, Vincent.
- Ruttledge, Patrick J.
- Sexton, Martin.
- Sheehy, Timothy (Tipperary).
- Smith, Patrick.
- Thrift, William Edward.
- Tierney, Michael.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Ward, Francis C.
I move amendment 24:
To insert before Section 7 the following new section:—
(1) Whenever a complaint is made to the Minister to the effect that a book or a particular edition of a book is wholly or in general character indecent or obscene, or advocates 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 the Minister may refer such complaint to the Board.
(2) The Board shall consider every complaint referred to them by the Minister under this section and for the purpose of such consideration shall examine the book or the particular edition of a book which is the subject of such complaint and on completion of such consideration the Board shall make to the Minister their report of such complaint.
(3) Whenever the Board under this section makes in reference to a complaint a report, assented to and signed by at least four members of the Board, stating that in the opinion of the Board the book or the particular edition of a book which is the subject of such complaint is wholly or in general character indecent or obscene or advocates 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 the Minister may by order (in this Act referred to as a prohibition order) prohibit the sale and distribution in Saorstát Eireann of such book or of such edition of a book.
(4) A prohibition order made under this section in relation to a book shall, unless it is expressly limited to one or more particular editions of such book, apply to every edition of such book whether published before or after the date of such order save such (if any) editions thereof as may be excluded by an amending order from the application of such prohibition order.
This amendment looks rather more formidable than it really is. In actual fact, the greater part of it is simply a repetition of what is already in the Bill. There are three points covered by the amendment. The first with reference to having recognised associations was deleted from the Bill so far as books are concerned. That point has already been dealt with. The second point is that between the words "particular edition of a book is" and the words "indecent or obscene" the words "wholly or in general character" are introduced into the section. The third point is that a whole class of books which are covered in the Bill by Section 17 are taken over and brought under Section 7. The first of these two latter points is somewhat less important than the other. The amendment simply attempts to provide that a book shall not be condemned as indecent or obscene unless it be wholly or in general character indecent or obscene. That is to say, that a book which is otherwise harmless shall not be condemned if a few pages, or perhaps only one page, or a few sentences, are such as to allow of their being termed obscene. In introducing the amendment our feeling was that the intention of the Bill was to deal with a well-known and easily-defined class of books. We recognise, as, of course, everybody else recognises, that there is a considerable sale of a certain kind of highly objectionable cheap pornographic books not only in Dublin but in country towns, and indeed not only cheap, but, in some cases, of a fairly high price. We do not at all wish to prevent books of that kind from being dealt with by the Bill. In fact, we are very anxious that everything possible should be done to deal with the traffic in that sort of book. What we wanted to secure was that a large class of works which may be termed literary works— some of them, and perhaps the majority of them works of standing and recognised literary character which are long since well-known to the public— should not be brought before the Board of Censors, and discussed as indecent. A case in point is that mentioned by Deputy Cooper yesterday. It might be possible, if the Bill as it stands were strictly interpreted, that a book like Gibbon's "Decline and Fall," would be brought before the Censorship Board as indecent, because there are undoubtedly certain passages in it which are indecent, not in English so much as in Latin and in Greek. There is a very large class of book of that kind which, in our judgment, it would not be only undesirable but impossible for any machinery that we can set up to prohibit. We believe that, whereas it should be possible to deal satisfactorily and thoroughly with the class of book that may be strictly called pornographic in character and in tendency, it is not possible, nor is it altogether desirable, that an attempt should be made to extend the scope of the Bill beyond that so far as books are concerned to cover the wider range which may include works of literature.
Another example which occurs to me is a work mentioned on the Canadian Prohibition List, Burton's "Arabian Nights," a work which undoubtedly is, in many passages, indecent and obscene, but which costs at least £10 to buy, is rather hard to procure, and is, in any case, a very highly prized work of literature. Not only so but if the section be applied to books of that kind, there are even books in the Irish language itself which might be brought before the Censorship Board on the plea that a number of passages in them are indecent and obscene, and which could not be brought in if this phrase which we seek here to introduce were included in the section. We are not, of course, wedded to this phrase. What we would like to secure is that while every effort should be made to deal with books definitely pornographic and published with the intention of broadcasting obscenity, no attempt should be made, if possible, to interfere with books of whose literary value or educational value in certain respects or for certain purposes there might be question. We would be perfectly prepared, of course, to accept any alternative provision that could be made to that effect. The other object which our amendment tries to achieve is rather more far-reaching, and one which has already given rise to a considerable amount of not altogether relevant discussion. It concerns a class of publication at present included under Section 17 of the Bill. In the first place we most emphatically state that we have no wish whatever in any way to prevent that class of books from being dealt with. We have no wish to discuss the principle whether it is desirable or not desirable to deal with that class of books or periodicals. We are quite in agreement with the Minister and the general sense of the House and the community that the sort of propaganda that it is intended to attack by Section 17 of the Bill is thoroughly undesirable from every point of view, and ought to be dealt with as quickly and as completely as possible. We are not discussing that principle, although a document which was circulated to Deputies insinuated, in a not very creditable manner to our thinking, that we were discussing that principle What we are discussing is simply and solely the means to be adopted for carrying that principle into practice. In the Bill as it stands the section which deals with this type of publication reads thus:
"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."
With the principle as enshrined in that clause, I repeat, we are absolutely and entirely and without any reservation in agreement. But the difficulty which strikes us, and it is a difficulty which, we are sure, will appeal to the whole House is, that there is no provision laid down in the Bill for defining in particular cases the book or periodical with which it is proposed by that section to deal. As far as we can see under this section you will have a state of affairs by which booksellers and newsagents will be in a state of complete uncertainty as to what their position is. No bookseller can tell from one day to another whether a police officer on an order of the Minister or the Attorney-General may not come in and seize some particular issue of a periodical which contains perhaps an advertisement that advocates or may reasonably be supposed to advocate the practices referred to; or that a police officer may not come in and seize, say, a book like a recent book on Socialism about which there was a great deal of discussion and which I believe contains in one or two sentences matters which might be construed as advocating those practices.
The position of the bookseller or newsagent under the Bill as it stands is one of complete and absolute uncertainty. And as far as anyone reading the Bill can see there is no authority to decide, before a prosecution takes place and therefore before a bookseller or newsagent is subjected to altogether undeserved interference or inconvenience—there is no authority to decide as to what does or does not constitute advocacy of those practices. It has been stated in a document which was circulated to Deputies and printed in the public press that what was called "the Catholic principle" was enshrined in this section of the Bill, and that Deputy Law and I were anxious to depart from the Catholic principle. That statement seems to me to have had its origin in a confusion of ideas. It is all very well to state a principle in a Bill, but when dealing with legislation you have to provide machinery by which the principle can be carried into effect. In the case of a principle which has behind it the moral authority of the Church, that moral authority carries with it its own sanction in the conscience of the individual. The Church has no police machinery for carrying out the dictates of its moral authority. But in the case of Acts of Parliament these Acts have to be carried out by policemen and police officials who, although they may not often err, are at any rate not altogether infallible; and they have to be interpreted by lawyers, by, say, the Attorney-General or by the Minister, who may err perhaps less than a police official, but is equally unlikely to be able to claim infallibility. It is just how the machinery is going to work that we want to have discussed on this amendment. We have a similar amendment at a later stage of the Bill for dealing with periodical publications of a similar nature. In this section we are concerned only with books, and I would submit that the question of books is of more importance and one deserving of more care in the setting up of machinery for dealing with them than that of periodicals. Periodicals come out at regular intervals, and it is easy enough to interfere with the circulation of one issue of a periodical without damaging the publication as a whole, whereas if you interfere with a book you may completely destroy it.
We want to suggest that before running any risk of such sporadic interference with either authors, publishers, or newsagents, you should be careful to set up a clear and definite means of deciding when exactly an offence is committed. The means that occurred to us were that books of this kind might be put in the same category as all indecent books are put in by the Bill as it stands. We propose by our amendment to deal with these books as indecent and obscene books, to have them made the subject of complaint to the Minister and to have them brought to the notice of the Censorship Board before the publishers or the circulators of them or the disseminators of them are made liable to any criminal prosecution. We thought that there was no very compelling reason why books of this kind should be singled out from these indecent publications. It may be said that they do more harm. Probably they do. At the same time what we should consider here is not so much the book which gives offence, but the case where a book which is not actually offensive at all is made the subject of a prosecution and where the newsagent, publisher or author is subject to interference and inconvenience without any real reason. That is the kind of thing that we want to guard against, and it occurred to us that by leaving such books to the ordinary machinery of the Censorship Board we would secure that such prosecutions and such interference would not take place. We are not, of course, wedded to that particular method of dealing with the matter. We are only anxious to protect the author, the bookseller and the newsagent, not authors, booksellers or newsagents who are guilty, but authors, newsagents, and booksellers who are innocent. It is always easy to say that the people who interfere in these matters at all are themselves interested in this propaganda and are guilty people.
Our object is to see that innocent people are not made subject to prosecution in this matter. We are not wedded to the particular method suggested, and we are perfectly willing to adopt any other good method. For instance, it might be possible that some different machinery for getting together a list of these publications might be put in force; that a list might be prepared by the Minister's Department and published to the newsagent, and that any newsagent selling a book on such a list would be liable to prosecution.
In that case the newsagent and publisher would be protected, and so would the author, because the author would not be liable to have his book interfered with without full and careful consideration. If such machinery as that should commend itself to the Dáil we would be quite prepared to accept it. What we did want to bring about was that the Dáil would not allow the section to be passed without adverting to the serious dangers of prosecution and of interference with the normal, natural public rights of innocent people which are inherent in it as it stands.
I think we are all agreed so far as it is possible to protect the people that Deputy Tierney refers to. I think it would be the desire of everyone to protect them, but the amendment as it appears on the Paper seems to bring in Sections 7 and 17. I submit that the greater portion of the amendment would arise when we are dealing with Section 17. There are several amendments dealing with Section 17. If there were a discussion, perhaps the Minister might consider a way of trying to meet the point that Deputy Tierney has in mind. It is not the desire of anybody that there should be a raid or interference in any way in connection with books, or that people should be put to the trouble that might be imposed or inflicted upon them if the section were to be adopted as it is. The difficulty I see is that there would not be an offence and the book would not be illegal at all until it was brought before the Board. That is a point of some importance, because while all this thing was being gone into and investigated you would probably have it circulated and spread through the country. That is one of the difficulties I see. As regards Deputy Tierney's amendment, the greater portion of it could better be taken when we are dealing with Section 17.
I cannot accept the whole of Deputy Tierney's amendment in the spirit in which he has put it forward. His idea at the moment is that these books dealing with birth-control should be put on precisely the same footing as all other books.
All other indecent books.
All other books that come under this statute. I cannot accept that. I frankly confess that this section as it stands will probably be, as far as books are concerned, very much needed. I am very much afraid of that. I think that the machinery which so far, the Dáil has provided, with the associations— I am not going to cry over spilt milk— and with a Censorship Board, will probably be very nearly, if not quite, a dead letter as far as books are concerned. I therefore think that it will be very necessary to retain Section 17. That section certainly makes it clear that whether the censorship of books breaks down or not, the ability to prosecute for the possession of a certain book will remain intact. It may turn out—I hope it does not, but I am greatly afraid it may—that this Bill will be effective as regards periodicals and will be effective as regards this particular class of book only; that is, the book dealing with birth-control. I am anxious to see that at any rate it shall be clear that in that respect the Bill shall be effective. I would be willing to accept Deputy Law's and Deputy Tierney's amendment to Section 7 to this extent, that I would permit by amendment the Censorship Board to draw up and declare, as it does with reference to other books, a list of prohibited books and, coming to a later stage, prohibited periodicals, prohibited not merely because they were indecent or obscene in the wide sense of the word, but prohibited because they advocated the unnatural prevention of birth. But I want to make it clear at this stage that that list will be a guidance, and only a guidance, for booksellers. They can be prosecuted under Section 17, and I would make it clear under that section that they can be prosecuted whether the book is in this prohibited list or not.
What is the use of it?
The use of it will be simply this, that there would be a list there for booksellers from which they could judge. In addition to that, they would have to exercise their own judgement. When I come to Section 17 itself I will deal with sub-section (b), which is, I have been satisfied, rather too wide. That is, to "sell or expose, offer or keep for sale." That might conceivably put booksellers and stationers in a very awkward position, because a paper normally properly conducted might produce an article advocating birth-control on some particular occasion. It is a well-known fact that there are certain well-known writers in England who advocate birth-control, and a well-conducted paper might, on one particular occasion, have an article of this nature. I recognise that if it had such an article it would be unfair to the stationer or bookseller, as the case might be, to prosecute him. While I would be willing to have sub-section (b) modified, I would only be willing to have it modified to this extent, that he should have shown no negligence in the sale. In other words, the onus should be upon him and he shall be guilty unless he shows that he has taken reasonable care to see that a book or periodical of this nature is not sold. Further than that I cannot go.
The particular amendment with which we are dealing really re-enacts the existing section except for that sub-section 1 (b). I am willing to add these words, "or advocates the unnatural prevention of conception or the procurement of abortion or miscarriage or any other method." I would be willing to have those words inserted in the section. Deputy Thrift asks me what use would it be. I think it might be of very considerable use, because the bookseller would see the list, and he would first know there are certain things which cannot be sold, and he would see generally the type of paper and the particular class of articles that are dangerous. Let me take, for example, that a well-known English writer and he had written a book which advocates birth-control. His name appears on the list. The bookseller knows that list, and then he sees another book by the same writer. That puts him on his guard. I will take an extreme example. Most people happen to know that there is a certain woman who writes books which are largely advertised dealing with this particular class of offence. Now, suppose somebody sees her name on the title page of a book, he is certainly put on his guard, and he inquires as to what the contents of the book may be. That is a very extreme case. The bookseller would not require that particular name to be put on any list, but there may be a person not so extremely well-known, some writer on social affairs who may have written a book which is on the list. The booksellers would be put on their guard and it would be of assistance to them. I could not at all consent to the deletion of Section 17. I would like to point out that either I misunderstood Deputy Tierney or Deputy Tierney has misconstrued Section 17. No Guard or anybody like that becomes a judge under Section 17 of what is indecent or what is not. He simply brings a prosecution, and it is the Court under Section 17 which decides.
My point was that a prosecution itself is to some extent an interference and a vexation, and that there is no reason why an innocent person should be subjected to the danger of a prosecution in a matter in which he has no guidance as to right or wrong.
These people have the guidance of their own intelligence if they read a book. I admit it would be a defence for them—and I suggest that the section should be amended in this respect—if they could show there was reasonable care, but people who run business, people who run motor cars and so forth, always run the risk of being prosecuted, sometimes unsuccessfully and at other times successfully.
Progress ordered to be reported.