I do not propose to speak for any length of time. In fact, I would be willing to stop at once if it would facilitate us in getting a rapid decision on this matter. It was thought on the last occasion that one hour was too short to decide this question, and if it could be considered that until 2 o'clock, when we adjourn, would be sufficient, I should very much prefer to leave the time in the possession of those opposed to this motion. I do not know whether it could be agreed that we might divide and finish with the matter to-day.
Workmen's Compensation (Increase of Compensation) Bill, 1929. - Legal Practitioners (Qualification) Bill, 1928—Fifth Stage (Resumed)
We have a repetition then of the attitude which we had, not merely last night, not merely immediately in relation to this Bill, but through the whole history of this interest and interests like it in relation to this and similar questions. Passive resistance, passive obstruction, the tenacity in resistance of the molluse; "Oh, we would not think of interfering with anything of this kind, we are anxious and eager to see all this thing done, but we will not allow it to be done." You had the extraordinary example of the protagonists of, if I might say, this profession in this matter putting forward a case on behalf of that profession that what they wanted simply was consideration in the matter, consultation, and so on. We have had the fact that when they themselves, in their own assemblies, came to consider it, they threw over their advocates in this House and would not have either consultation or consideration. "It is Irish, away with it; it is unclean—no consultation!" If that is to be permanently the attitude of this or any other body in this country in relation to the nationalising of this country, then they must face the fact that there is in this South of Ireland a permanent majority, however otherwise divided, which is determined that in this matter, and in all matters, not merely the tendency of movement but the actual movement shall be in that direction, and that the forces which are going to measure themselves against that must be prepared to measure themselves against the vast majority of the people, and to take the consequences of deliberate obstruction of that movement. I do not want to see that condition developed. I want to see a condition in the future, of which there are many parallels in the past, in which the great motherhood of Ireland has shown itself capable of absorbing into itself and burying and turning into the purpose of its own self foreign and antagonistic elements in its own body. I am anxious personally to smooth that road, to do what is possible to allow and to enable that amalgamation to take place, but if we are going to have in this matter a definite repudiation of the authority of the vast majority of the people who decide the direction of the movement, then those who stand in the way must take the consequences of their action.
The Deputy says there is a vast majority in favour of this Bill. I ask him when did a majority decide and where is the majority?
The Constituent Assembly decided it.
The majority decided it on a day on which Deputy Redmond was absent from this House, by a majority of 110 to 15.
In this House?
This is the House to decide. No wonder Deputy Redmond did not know, because he was not here.
He was a member of the Constituent Assembly.
This interesting body has told us that this is not wanted by the public or by their profession —we know that—that it is not wanted by the public. They are the authority! One hundred and ten to fifteen in this House is not the authority—they are! It is oppressive—110 to 15 is oppressive! It is unworkable! They intend it to be unworkable, but we will see that it shall work. It sets an impossibly high standard for Irish! It sets for this country a standard which in every other country in the world is accepted by that profession in relation to the language of the country. It must lead to inefficiency!
Is that the standard accepted in Wales? The Deputy cannot answer the question?
Wales has not a Parliament of its own.
That is "an empty gesture with nothing in it."
What is the real complaint by these people as to this matter? Remember they are talking of those who are supposed to be the representatives of the people in this House. While it is possible to defend a plain assault case in Irish, it is quite impossible to draw a marriage settlement in Irish! My idea is that marriages took place in Ireland and marriage settlements were made long before this profession decided how or when it was possible to make a marriage settlement. It was impossible, according to these people, to lease land or draw a lease. My recollection is that such contracts were entered into at a time when the language of the country was the language which it is impossible for these people to learn. But listen to this: "It is quite impossible to draw up any other complicated legal document." That is the object—they do not want complicated legal documents made impossible.
They mean work for lawyers.
I would be very glad to see complicated legal documents made impossible. I have had the extraordinary experience recently of reading a legal document which I could understand.
Was it in Irish?
I could read that particular document in Irish, but I could not read a document in English which is expressed in complicated legal language.
I am wondering what all this has to do with the Fifth Stage of this Bill.
What it has to do with it is, that this is the official case put up against this Bill by those whom it concerns.
I am only concerned with the arguments of Deputies on the Fifth Stage of the Bill, not with the case put up by anybody outside the House.
Very well; I am very perfectly satisfied to say that complicated legal documents will be less complicated under this measure. I shall give now directly, in my own words, this same argument and answer it. I have told of the case of a Dean of the Faculty of Commerce turning out the best trained men in commerce in Ireland at the present moment, and turning them out under a system of tuition in economics which is in Irish. I have given his explanation as to why it is easier and better to teach economics in Irish, and the explanation is this: that the people who learn economics in that class in Irish must know the meaning of the terms they use. Ask anyone in this House at the present moment what rent means as economists would define it. It has no relation whatever to its meaning. Capital has no relation whatever to its meaning. Land has no relation whatever to its meaning. What those people, in teaching through Irish, have found out is that in attempting to teach they must themselves be capable of learning the meaning of the words they use. Exactly the same way in legal documents. As soon as the lawyers themselves have to learn and to put clearly in a way that they can understand and translate, through the vehicle of another language, the meaning of the technical terms they throw about, and whose complication is the cause of three-fourths of the litigation, then we will get simple language in legal documents, and we will find it is quite possible to draw a marriage settlement and to lease land in Irish, and that it is quite possible to avoid the necessity of complicated legal documents. It is complained that the defence of this measure should be on the lips of those who themselves have little of the language of this country. It is because I have little of the language of this country that I take the risk, and regard it as a duty, to subject myself to that criticism and attack. It is because I know the lack of it that I want that that lack shall not continue.
I have tried harder to learn the Irish language than I have tried anything else in my life. Frankly, I have failed, and I frankly recognise the extreme difficulty which men of my age, and possibly of my peculiar incapacity in that respect, will have in the same way after a certain age. I have no recollection for sound. You could repeat to me a particular phrase thirty times and I could not repeat that phrase, phonetically, afterwards in an hour or so. I am frankly facing the difficulties, and I think it is impossible for me now, except by a process of living where I must continually use for the ordinary business of my life every day and all the day for a considerable time that language before I can now acquire it. I am trying again. My two little boys are trying to teach me what they learn themselves day by day. I may fail again, but it will not be for lack of trying. I believe that this language if fully understood, if it could grow up with our children, above all, if it could be used by the older people to their children, it would be the cement in the whole architecture of a new Irish life. It would be the beginning of hope, of the breaking down of that sort of heterogeneity which would again give us some separate place in which we would be actively conscious of a share of an individuality greater than our own. It is because I do know the difficulties which a man of full age has in acquiring this language, and because I value it, and because I think that every effort should be made while people are young, and in proportion as they are young, to make this language the spoken and the ordinarily and regularily used vehicle of communication in this country that I ask this House in this particular small matter to start doing what it will be its business to do in relation to membership of the Dáil, and membership of every profession in this country, and in relation to every commercial and educational activity.
I have spoken on the Second Reading of this Bill and protested against its introduction and I shall continue to do so. I have no reason to alter the attitude I then took up. On the contrary, the reasons that seem to me against this particular measure have been strengthened in the meantime. To my mind, this is an utterly unwanted, unasked for, unnecessary and unprecedented piece of legislation. Legislation generally takes one of two forms: It is either Government legislation or it is Private Members' legislation. If it is Government legislation it is generally the settled policy of the Government of the day; if it is Private Members' legislation, which this is, it usually has something behind it in the nature of public opinion or public demand. Take, for instance, the Town Tenants Bill, which I myself introduced, or the Workmen's Compensation Bill, introduced by Deputy Rice. These measures, or any such measures introduced by Private Members, have some foundation outside this Dáil. I say that this Bill has none, that there has been no demand for it, but that there have been declarations and protestations against it and that outside this House there has been practically not one solitary voice raised in its favour.
Who wants the Bill? When Deputy Flinn spoke of a majority I thought he was alluding to a majority of the people. He enlightened me on that point by declaring that he referred to a majority of the House. It is true that this Bill has passed the Second Stage by a large majority, but was this Bill ever suggested to the people of the country at the last or any previous general election? Was it ever suggested that anything in the nature of compulsory Irish would be instituted against one particular profession in this country? That is what this Bill proposes to do.
It is all very well dilating in general terms upon the benefits and the patriotism, and even the necessity of compulsory Irish, all round. That is not what this Bill proposes. This Bill singles out one set of people, and one set alone, lawyers by profession, and it says that they must adopt a certain course in regard to the Irish language. Does the public want the Bill? Do the professions concerned want the Bill? I think they are entitled, because they are most intimately and directly affected in the matter, to give expression to their opinion and to say whether they want it or not. Meantime, since the Second Reading, we have had a declaration from the Incorporated Law Society, which speaks for the great majority—two-thirds, I think—of the solicitors of Ireland, that they are opposed to this measure. They do not say that they are opposed to the revival of the Irish language, but they say that they are particularly opposed to this specific measure, and they give their grounds of opposition.
May I say in passing that they are perfectly entitled to do so, and, though perhaps rather sneering references may have been made to the fact that Deputies were circularised by that body, I say that that body were absolutely within their rights as the body directly concerned in the matter to place, by every means in their power, their views before the representatives in this House. I think that that statement is most cogent, concise, and convincing, and, if Deputies were to take the trouble to read it, I think they would find that the arguments contained in it are unanswerable. At any rate, though not present during the last discussion, I have read the speeches made here, and so far as I can gather, there has been no answer to the arguments put forward on behalf of the Incorporated Law Society. But the public have not expressed an opinion in favour of the Bill, the professions intimately concerned have not expressed an opinion in favour of it. Have even the political parties in this House officially backed this measure? Nothing of the kind. So far as I understand, there is to be a free vote on this Bill. Why? A very good reason—namely, because the Government know very well that if some of their supporters were to desire its passage, a large minority in the Government Party are not in favour of the Bill.
That is one of the reasons presumably why it is not a Government measure. I sincerely trust that the members of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party who are not in favour of this measure will have the courage of their convictions, will take advantage of the fact that the Government Whips are not being put on, and will go into the Lobby and vote against it. I think that this whole proceeding by way of private legislation, affecting these two learned professions, is trifling with the Legislature, trifling with the language, and also trifling with the learned professions themselves. I very much resent the introduction of anything in the nature of sectarianism with regard to this question, and, unfortunately, sectarianism has been inclined to be introduced, not only by the advocates of this measure but also by its opponents. There are 92 per cent. of the people of the Free State Catholics according to the last Census returns. Is there any Deputy who has any ground or reason for saying that the majority of that 92 per cent. of Catholic citizens of this State want or desire this particular Bill? I say not. There has been nothing in the nature of a referendum upon it. There has not been even a suggestion of a plebiscite. The Bill contains some extraordinary propositions, the principal among them being a definition of what is described as a competent knowledge of the Irish language. That is to mean "such a degree of oral and written proficiency in the use of the language as is sufficient to enable a legal practitioner properly to conduct the business of his clients in the Irish language." It is that "competent knowledge" so defined, that it will be necessary, in the view of the Chief Justice, for anyone to have attained either before he was called to the Bar or was admitted a solicitor.
I do not know whether it is suggested that when this Bill passes, as presumably it will by a large majority, it is to be considered a dead letter, or whether it is to be strictly construed literally according to the terms laid down in the section which I have quoted. If it is to be considered a dead letter, and if students shall not be required to have this extraordinary competent knowledge of the Irish language, I say that the whole proceeding is a farce and that we are only wasting public time by discussing it. On the other hand, if it is to be strictly construed, I am inclined to think that it will be the end of the legal profession in this country. Perhaps that is what some supporters of the measure are aiming at, but at the same time let them remember that it is very hard to get on without some evils, some of them are even necessary for our very existence, and it is very difficult even for idealists of the character of the Deputy who has just sat down to get on without lawyers.
They do not want law or order.
The Deputy who has just spoken mentioned several terms in English. He spoke of "rent,""land," and so forth. All these terms have been in use in legal parlance in this country for many centuries. They have acquired a distinct legal meaning. Is he now suggesting that that legal meaning should be scrapped and an entirely new code set up in an entirely new language, because a great deal of this Irish language will be put into a new language? It will have to be a new language. It will not be the language spoken by Brian Boru or his contemporaries, because there are many things in existence to-day which the law has to deal with which were not heard of or dreamed of in his time. Is it suggested by the advocates of this Bill that all this volume of precedents, coming down from generation to generation, whereby a word has derived a certain meaning in legal parlance, is to be scrapped, that we are to start afresh, and, as he says, reach the millennium by having the simplest form of legal documents in the Irish language? It is very difficult to get simplicity in any document. One of the chief reasons why legal documents are so complicated is because of their desire to convey certain meaning and certain meaning alone, and it is the very search for simplicity that renders them so complicated.
Deputy Flinn has given us very kindly a personal explanation and apologia as to his incompetence in either a knowledge of Irish or in the learning of it. He has told us that neither does he know it nor, after very strenuous efforts, has he been able to learn it. I am not here to say that Deputy Flinn is anything extraordinary in mentality, but I do think that if he has not been able to surmount the obstacle of the Irish language, it will be very difficult to expect the ordinary average citizen to do so. On the occasion of the Second Reading, I suggested that in all fairness to the profession concerned, and that in all decency, before we fasten this collar round the necks of the legal profession, we might try it on ourselves. Of course, at the time, that was greeted with a certain amount of derision, but since then many people have made the same suggestion to me. Only the other day it was suggested to me that members of this House should first learn how to speak Irish themselves or make it compulsory for admission to this House. Another friend of mine chimed in and said: "What would be the use of being a Deputy if you were not exempt from things that other people have to do?" That is the only reason that I can see why we should not begin with ourselves instead of passing laws for the benefit of others which we do not seem to think should be fastened on our own shoulders. I wonder will the country solicitor feel more Irish when he is addressed as "Aturnae" because I believe the Irish for solicitor is "Aturnae"—at least the newly-manufactured term for solicitor which we have been told is Irish, is "aturnae." I wonder will he feel more Irish, more patriotic and that he is serving his country better by being called by the country people "Mr. Aturnae" instead of "Mr. Solicitor." That will be, I presume, one of the great benefits that the Irish language will gain by the passing of this measure.
He will not mind if he gets his fee.
Furthermore, it was suggested by the last speaker that this is only the thin end of the wedge and that eventually the principle contained in this Bill shall be applied elsewhere. Well, if that is the case I say that it is grossly unfair to pick out one particular group of persons and apply it to them. It has been said in previous debates that there was a demand in certain districts for Irish-speaking lawyers. My reply to that was, and is, that if there is that demand there, it shall be supplied. No people are so quick to deliver the goods if there is a demand for them, and name a price, too, as lawyers. The principle embodied in this Bill is a mean one. It is summed up in two or three words, simply these: "Try it on the dog; see how it goes there, but do not try it on ourselves. Try it on the dog first and if the dog survives, very good; if he goes down, it does not matter."
Is the Deputy aware that the Bill applies only to persons who are fifteen years of age and under?
Certainly I realise that it does not apply to existing solicitors and barristers, but it refers to future ones. I do not see why this Bill should be brought in referring to future solicitors or barristers, any more than another Bill, or the same Bill, should not also bring the same conditions about for future bakers, butchers, candlestick makers, or perhaps fishmongers for that matter. These people come into every-day contact with the people. If there is a demand for Irish-speaking lawyers, surely there is a demand for Irish-speaking fishmongers. I suggest that it is a mean thing to fasten upon one particular section of the community sooner than upon others. In answer to that argument, I think some speaker suggested that barristers were court officials. At the time I was not quite certain of the point. Since then I have looked it up, and I have discovered that barristers are not court officials, in any sense of the word. Solicitors are court officials; barristers are not, and even if they were court officials, why should officials of the court have to expound their various arguments in a certain way when other people like doctors, auctioneers, architects, or any other form of professional gentlemen, are allowed to go about their business in the ordinary way that has obtained for so many years in this country? I do not see what sense or decency there is in the Bill. It is a private measure. It is professedly a non-party measure. It has no demand from any section of the people. There has been a certain amount, I will not say very great, of decided opposition to it, but there has been no form of support of any sort or kind throughout the country for the measure. I think it is a great pity that the proposer introduced it, and I only hope that he will see the error of his ways and withdraw it now.
I am glad to say that in my judgment, anyway, this Bill has been improved in the Committee Stage. I ventured on behalf of the profession of which I am a member to make certain suggestions, and I am glad to say they have been embodied in the Bill, and that the Committee showed a complete willingness to use this Bill as a measure for furthering the interests of the Irish language, and showed themselves anxious to be as conciliatory as possible. I have just listened to two speeches. I heard a speech from Deputy Redmond attacking this Bill. I heard a speech from Deputy Flinn purporting at any rate to advocate the Bill. I must confess that it appeared to me that no matter how strong persons might regard Deputy Redmond's attack, his attack did not do half as much harm to this Bill as Deputy Flinn's attempted defence of it. I am glad Deputy Flinn informed this House that he did not know Irish; I am glad Deputy Flinn did not put himself forward as a man who had done any solid work for Ireland. I am glad that Deputy Flinn's speech was not made from the Front Opposition Bench; I am glad that Deputy Flinn's speech was a speech made by a person who carlies little weight in this House, and I think none at all outside. I am glad that a speech of that nature cannot be taken seriously and cannot be made use of by persons who are bitterly opposed to the revival of the Irish language; I am glad that nobody can say that Deputy Flinn is typical of Gaelic League mentality, or is typical of the Irish revival mentality. What has he done? Simply in stentorian tones he has bellowed out an attack against one particular body of professional men in this country.
What is the object of this Bill? What is it supposed to do? This Bill is supposed by those who introduced it, by everybody who votes for it, to encourage the Irish language, to make the Irish language spoken more than it is at present. How is that to be achieved? You make it necessary for solicitors to learn the Irish language, that future barristers practising in this country will learn the Irish language, but that brings you a very short way indeed. What is the use of solicitors knowing the language, what is the use of barristers knowing the language, if they are not going to use it afterwards? It is worthless. You may have a man who passed all examinations as a solicitor with a speaking knowledge of Irish, but if he does not use that knowledge it practically does not help at all. What we want in this measure is to encourage Irish, to make it more spoken in court. What we want is the co-operation of the rising generation of members of the Irish Bar and members of the Incorporated Law Society. That is what we want, that is what we hope to achieve, and that is what we believe we will achieve under this Bill. How is that co-operation to be got? Is it to be got by wild attacks on a learned profession? Is that helpful? Is that the way it is going to be achieved? If you want the solicitors of Ireland and the members of the Bar of Ireland to become Irish speakers and to use their knowledge of Irish, are you going to do that by making wild attacks upon them? In my judgment, that is a method by which you would defeat, and would not attain your end. Deputy Flinn put forward some very strange theories. Deputy Flinn put forward the theory that in a profession, or in a science, you can get on better if you have no technical terms.
No technical terms. There are professional men sitting beside the Deputy, and I am glad to see he has returned to the House. I wonder how the medical profession could get on if technical terms were taboo. I wonder how the solicitor profession is going to get on, or how the Bar is going to get on, or how the conduct of the law is going to go on if professional terms are taboo. I wonder how in any science, physical science or mental science, you can progress without technical terms. Technical terms get a hard, clear-cut meaning, and they can be used by those who require their use. Deputy Flinn cannot understand a simple legal document. Why? Because, I take it, Deputy Flinn has never gone to the trouble of acquiring a knowledge of the meaning of the most simple legal phrases. I regret very much that the Incorporated Law Society have taken up the attitude which they took up. I would have very much preferred, and I think everyone would have preferred, if, recognising that this Bill is almost certain to become law, they had seen in what way it could be improved, because I think it is quite possible, from their point of view, that this Bill would have been improved. I believe that if amendments drafted by them, doing away with what they consider to be difficulties of machinery, were put forward in this House, such amendments would have been dealt with by this House in the spirit in which the Committee dealt with the amendments that came before them, but not in the spirit which prompted the diatribe——
The amendment you suggested was put forward in Committee and rejected.
The amendment you are suggesting.
I am not suggesting any amendment.
I thought you were. You said that no amendments were put forward.
Certainly no amendment was suggested by the Incorporated Law Society, so far as I know.
Indeed they did. It was put before the Committee and unanimously rejected.
I understand the Incorporated Law Society did not approve of some of the amendments put forward by Deputy Wolfe.
On what authority does the Deputy say that?
Surely Deputy Wolfe did not put forward an amendment which was unanimously rejected.
You did not even vote for it yourself? I suppose you did not bother to call for a division. I believe, however, that if the Incorporated Law Society passed a resolution suggesting amendments to this measure those amendments would be sympathetically considered by this House. But that is not the position in which we stand at the present moment. I regret that there has been what I would call this completely negative attitude taken up on their behalf. But I do not despair of them. Things change. It may be that the Incorporated Law Society find themselves now being, as Deputy Redmond stated, picked out as it were for compulsion, first, and that they object, or it may be that feeling annoyed, feeling disturbed in their minds by that, they are now anxious to fight to the end. But it does not follow that when they have fought to the end and are defeated they will not accept their defeat. That does not follow at all. In fact, I hope it will be the other way about.
I believe that when this Bill becomes law and when the years have passed, which must pass before it becomes an operative measure, in those years the question will be fully considered by the Incorporated Law Society. Up to this they have not shown themselves as enemies of the Irish language. I know that they had Irish as one of the subjects upon their programme; I know that they have had two of the most distinguished Irish scholars as their examiners; and I trust that in the future, when the time which must pass before this Bill comes into force will have elapsed, the Incorporated Law Society will take it up and work it thoroughly. As I said before, it is only with the co-operation of the Bar, and only with the co-operation of the solicitors that this Bill can be made a real, working success. I do hope that that co-operation will be forthcoming, and what is more, I believe that it will in time be forthcoming.
There is no doubt about the fact that there is a great deal of legal business which cannot be transacted in Irish. Difficult documents dealing with complicated matters cannot be drawn in Irish. A great deal of legal argument cannot be conducted in Irish, because it is necessary for you to cite your precedents and to get the exact meaning of your words. In time it may be so used; in time a vocabulary of technical words may be evolved. But it does not exist at the present moment. I admit all that. But there is a great deal of work which can be done in Irish, and it does not matter, to my mind, very much as to what language a document is in; it does not matter to me very much whether in the Supreme Court an argument is carried on in Irish or is carried on in English. That does not seem to me to be a matter of very great importance. Provided that the whole Nisi Prius business of the country, that is to say, cases in which witnesses are examined before juries or before judges, all viva voce evidence, can be done in the Irish language, the purpose of the framers, and, I believe, the purpose of nine-tenths of the supporters of this Bill will be achieved. I hope that in time such a result will be achieved. But I do express this view, that in reviving the Irish language there is a very difficult thing to be done; there is a very long way to go; it is a very uphill fight. It is by proceeding tactfully and carefully, by enlisting the help of every supporter who can be got, by antagonising as few as possible, and by earning the support of as many as possible, that you will achieve that end. Here is a Bill which certainly gets over one difficulty. It makes it necessary for boys when they become young men to have acquired a spoken knowledge of the Irish language. Now, that is one of the great difficulties to be overcome—the force of inertia. Overcome that, have your young men so that they do know Irish, and then it will be a much easier thing to get them to use that knowledge than it would be if you had to force them afterwards to acquire and to use it. Here we are encouraging them, encouraging the acquisition of that knowledge, and if we in this House proceed carefully and tactfully, we will not only have achieved what is our real object—that a knowledge of the language will be acquired—but we will have achieved the object that when it is acquired it will be used.
It is to me a matter of much regret that, owing to no fault of my own, I was unable to have the privilege of listening to that portion of Deputy Flinn's speech which was delivered on last Wednesday night. I did hear his voice on the Second Reading of this Bill; I understood he was then in favour of the Bill, but when I read the report of what he said on Wednesday night I came to the very opposite conclusion. We all know, we must never forget, that Deputy Flinn is a most eloquent orator, the most eloquent orator that this country has seen since the time of Daniel O'Connell. We have had that admission, willingly and voluntarily given by no less a person than the President himself; we have had it corroborated by a few friends of his in Cork——
Why drag in O'Connell?
—who considered that that is so, and that they had it on no less authority than the Deputy himself, and I do not know anybody who is entitled to speak with greater authority. But with regard to last Wednesday, I read what I thought was an announcement from the Deputy that he had become, in the interval between the Second Reading and Wednesday night, strongly opposed to this Bill, because, unless he had been misreported, he told this House that everyone who is anti-Irish was opposed to this Bill, and that everyone who is pro-Irish is in favour of it. Is there anybody in this House more anti-Irish than the Deputy himself? And I took it from him and heard with great surprise to-day that he had again changed his mind, becoming a supporter of the Bill, because to-day he has spoken in favour of it—or at least he has declared that he has spoken in favour of it. In his first statement he spoke as strongly against it as he did for it to-day. He said that everyone who is anti-Irish is against the Bill. When did his generation become Irish?
About thirty generations ago.
He was only in this world a few hours when his distinguished sponsors thought it necessary to Anglicise his Christian name in order to prevent it——
Is the Deputy in order?
Was he an Irishman when he came into this country?
I want an answer to that question. Is the Deputy in order?
It is not desirable that these personalities should be indulged in, but I think if Deputies talk about Irish and anti-Irish sections in the House, that other Deputies must also be allowed to do so. Personally, I deprecate very much any personalities, but I have heard other people indulging in them, and I think fair play must be given all round.
Would I be in order in discussing the personal history of Deputy Wolfe on this Bill?
I think that this kind of laundry work should be done outside the House, and not inside it.
I would ask that Deputy Wolfe be given every possible liberty.
The point I make is that the fifteen Deputies who voted against this Bill have been attacked as being anti-Irish. Are they entitled to reply, or are they going to be attacked by Deputy Flinn without being able to say in reply: "We are more Irish than you are"? Are we to take it all lying down? I know where the shoe is pinching, and so does Deputy Lemass. He knows there is no answer when I ask was Deputy Flinn an Irishman when he came to this country in 1918.
I think Cork Deputies should settle that in Cork, and not here.
We have business in Dublin, too.
I am Irish both in Dublin and in Cork and I object to Deputy Flinn suggesting to me that I am anti-Irish. Deputy Flinn came here as an Englishman. He was not above appealing to the British Government as an Englishman, and of relying on his services to the British Government in 1918. There is something that an ex-Crown Prosecutor does know, and he knows that. Later on the Deputy took an oath of fealty to his King and to his country. I have no doubt that he took it, not as an empty formula, but as meaning what it does mean. Again, I ask the Deputy, when did he become an Irishman? When he joined Fianna Fáil? That, I think, was the evening before the nomination at the last General Election, when Deputy Flinn said: "I will cease coquetting with the Cumann na nGaedheal Party; I will abandon my flirtations with the Labour Party, and from this on I will swallow the whole programme of the Fianna Fáil Party, including the mere empty formula." This is the gentleman who tells us calmly that if we cast a vote against this Bill we are anti-Irish. We are not anti-Irish. Those who vote against this Bill have more Irish blood beneath the nail of a small toe than Deputy Flinn has in his whole composition.
I have no other blood but Irish; not one drop.
What does this Bill hope to do? What will it achieve? Deputy Flinn has pointed out the difficulty of learning it. He has pointed out some difficulty that he has as regards understanding sounds. I do not think that any member of the Dáil when the Deputy is speaking finds that he has any such difficulty. But there is Deputy Flinn debarred for ever from learning the Irish language because he says he cannot follow sounds. He assumes that that difficulty only arises when a man comes to full age. I cannot quite understand that from a logician of Deputy Flinn's understanding and education. Why should not the same difficulty be there when one is under 21? There are a great number of people, as Deputy Flinn has pointed out, who cannot possibly learn the Irish language. Are they forever to be debarred from entering the legal profession? Deputy Flinn says: "Yes, you must debar them; there is no other way out of it. They cannot learn Irish, and, therefore, they are not going to enter the legal profession." That, he says, is the decision of the majority. Where does the majority arise, as Deputy Redmond asked?
Surely the people of all others who are interested in this matter, and who are expert in it and know how it will affect the profession and the public, are the members of the solicitors' profession. Solicitors are more in touch with the public than barristers, and they have by no uncertain vote, not by a vote of 110 to 8, but by a unanimous vote from one end of the Free State to the other, declared that this Bill cannot be carried into effect. The Bill is nonsense on the face of it, so nonsensical to carry out that anyone interested in the Irish language could come to no other conclusion than that it will have the effect of putting one more nail in the coffin of compulsory Irish. A solicitor has to pass three examinations. In the first examination he is compelled to show that he has a knowledge of Latin, English, English literature, and other subjects. After he has got that knowledge he has to undertake a three, four or five years' course of legal training. The period during which he has to learn his law is very short, in my opinion, and might be easily extended. But the suggestion has never been made until now, and it would not have been made now if behind this Bill there were any people who had the slightest knowledge of legal education, that from the time a person becomes an apprentice for the solicitor profession up to his final examination he might do as he likes as regards law, but you must administer to him solid doses of compulsory Irish. When starting his profession a man likes to get his examination with honour and credit to himself. That is not to be done any longer, because it may well be that a first of first as far as legal subjects are concerned may fail in Irish, in which event he will have to go for his examination again, and in his next attempt he will probably be put down among those who have just scraped through. There will no longer be the great desire and ambition for the apprentice to do well in his final, for the result of the final will have very little to say as to how he really did and what his knowledge of law really is.
The promoters of this Bill have given an irreparable blow to the promotion of the Irish language. Of course, I will hear from the Minister for Local Government that I do not understand the great change that has come over Irish public feeling. The Minister may find to his cost one of these days that it is I who do know, and if he thinks that this movement to cram compulsory Irish down the throats of unwilling students has the will and the voice of the people behind it he is mistaken. That is a lesson he has to learn some day. I do not suggest that Deputy Conlon and Deputy McFadden are anything more than figure-heads in the promotion of this Bill. We all know who are behind it.
Who are they?
I do not suggest that Deputy Flinn is behind it or before it.
I submit that when it is suggested that the nominal backers of the Bill are not the real backers, and when a member of this House says that he knows who the real backers are, it is his duty to say who they are.
Was not Deputy Carney allowed last week to allude to an individual as Mr. X. and not give his name?
He was not allowed to give the name.
I will refer to them as Minister A and B. The Incorporated Law Society and the members of the legal profession know who are behind this Bill, who are responsible for it, and who will be responsible for this outrage on the teaching of the Irish language and on the legal profession. Nineteen years ago, when I was a member of the first governing body in University College, Cork, this question of compulsory Irish was proposed. I was then one of the very few anxious and willing to do everything possible to promote Irish, and I went further towards its promotion than five-sixths of those who belonged to that body. At that time we had in Cork a member of our profession who was enthusiastically in favour of the Irish language, and he has been ever since. He is the greatest supporter of the Gaelic League I have met in our profession; a man of talent who has brought up his family as supporters of the Gaelic League. I met him a week ago and asked him what he thought of this Bill. "There is only one thing for us," he said. "Let them carry on." I asked him then: "What do you think of the teaching of Irish now?""This does not," he said, "affect my son; but never again will he with my consent open an Irish book." That shows the change, and yet I know nothing about this change coming over the country and affecting even the strongest supporters of the Gaelic League and the Irish language.
No greater slander could be cast upon the Incorporated Law Society than to say they were opposed to the Irish language. Years and years ago they made Irish a voluntary subject in their examinations. They believe, and I believe, and the great majority of the people of this country believe, that you cannot get Irishmen to do anything by force. Most of us believe no good comes out of anything in the nature of force. You can encourage a boy to learn the Irish language under a voluntary system. In that way he will learn it and develop his education, and when he becomes a solicitor he will not throw it aside. But if you make it a compulsory subject for him, once he is qualified it will be good-bye to Irish. That would be one of the results of compulsion. After he gets through his final never again will he speak a word of Irish, and never again will he have anything to say to it. Deputies who are supporters of this Bill are creating enemies to the Irish language, and, I respectfully submit, enemies of no mean order. I do not want to suggest anything in the nature of reprisals, but I was shocked and displeased to find that already there were people who say the Government are secretly behind this, and add: "They are winking at the Parties, but we will have it off the Government." Such criticism would be unworthy of the profession, and I am glad to say it has no sympathy whatever from the Council of the Incorporated Law Society, but if that spirit is there, as it has been shown to be here and there, the sooner we get rid of it the better. Coercion is always bad, and will always continue to do harm and not good. The Minister for Justice has spoken with very deep regret, and almost with tears in his eyes, of the fact that the Incorporated Law Society have not brought forward amendments to this Bill. I think if the amendments which were brought forward had been carried, we would have had a very different Bill. You would not have what you have now, a Bill that is nonsense from start to finish, unintelligible and unworkable. You would have a Bill which would be workable, and you would have the assistance and encouragement of the Incorporated Law Society in making it a success. Let it be a workable Bill.
It was nonsense to put into the Bill that after a student has gone through his legal course plus Irish, and when he has finished he must go to the Chief Justice and satisfy him that he has a competent knowledge of the Irish language. It does not matter, according to the promoters of this unintelligible Bill, whether the Chief Justice could say "Good morrow" to you in Irish or not. The Chief Justice is being given arbitrary powers over the Council of the Incorporated Law Society and their Board of Examiners. Speaking from sixty years' experience of the Council I can say that their examinations have all been conducted in the highest style, and compare favourably with those of any University or Board of Education. When they were bringing in Irish as an extra subject they did not do it in any mean way. They did it fairly, and they brought two of the best examiners they could get in Irish to examine their students. They were not going to have any underhand methods.
resumed the Chair.
Their standard of examination in Irish is very high, and I think that it might be substantially reduced without doing any harm, and in fact that might rather do good. The House has been reminded by Deputy Redmond that the result with regard to this Bill is a foregone conclusion, that it is going to be carried in the final stage as in the previous stages by the same large majority of Irish and anti-Irishmen. Though they will carry the Bill they will carry it against the protests of the profession that it affects, which sees that legal education is being hit in a way in which it never was hit previously. You are going to carry it against the protests of the profession to which I belong, and those who support the passage of this Bill are not doing any work for the Irish language but rather a bad day's work for Ireland.
Deputies Wolfe, Redmond and Cooper, and other eloquent Opposition speakers against this Bill, have been in the past some of the most enthusiastic supporters of the rights, privileges and liberties which we enjoy under the Constitution. That being so, I find it very difficult to understand why Deputy Redmond, who I think was a member of the Constituent Assembly responsible for the framing of the Constitution, protests in such emphatic language against this Bill.
Deputy Redmond was not a member of the Constituent Assembly. That is a matter of record.
At any rate, he is certainly one of the most enthusiastic advocates of the rights of the existing Constitution both inside and outside the House.
Article 4 says:—
The National language of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) is the Irish language, but the English language shall be equally recognised as an official language. Nothing in this Article shall prevent special provisions being made by a Parliament of the Irish Free State (otherwise called and herein generally referred to as the "Oireachtas") for districts or areas in which only one language is in general use.
I am sure Deputy Redmond is not deliberately overlooking that Article. He did, perhaps, forget that Article when he spoke to-day. I know many members of the Solicitors' profession who are fairly fluent in the French language. They go into the Universities and schools and, of their own free will, they learn the French language. I cannot understand any Irishman, especially a solicitor who hopes to practise in this country, refusing to learn the official national language.
Would any of the Deputy's friends be able to conduct a case in court in the French language?
There were considerable numbers included in the 110 who protested against this Bill who, of their own free will, learned French, knowing perfectly well that it would be of no use to them in this country. There was no reason why they should not learn the national language.
They are not forced to use French.
Deputy Redmond and Deputy Wolfe said that the members of the legal profession were being specially singled out for attack. That is not so. I look upon the Civil Service as a great profession. It may not be, in a sense, as great a profession as the Solicitor profession. Deputy Redmond has not raised any protest against the young men of this country who seek Civil Service positions being obliged to learn Irish as an obligatory subject. Deputy Redmond and Deputy Wolfe know quite well that the Banks, the Railways, Guinness's Brewery, and big business concerns make French and German obligatory subjects in their examinations.
As I have something to do with those examinations, may I point out that those languages are not obligatory in the examinations for Banks or Breweries in Dublin, so far as I am aware?
At any rate, a certain number of marks are set aside for those who volunteer to learn those languages, and many of those who sit for the examination for Banks, Railways, Guinness's Brewery, and big business concerns take advantage of their knowledge of foreign languages to enable them to get marks over those who refuse to learn foreign languages.
What is the position with regard to the Incorporated Law Society?
In the examinations for Railways, Irish is obligatory, but no other language is.
May I ask if French would not be useful to a banker?
I do not like this tendency to attack Deputy Davin as if he were a Minister.
I admit that I gave a silent vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, but the speeches I listened to to-day force me to pass the observations I am now passing. I agree with Deputy Flinn that we are put into the position of having to support this Bill as people who have some kind of a national outlook, and who are opposed to those with the purely anti-Irish point of view. I have no knowledge of Irish other than a bog-man's knowledge. Twenty-four or twenty-five years ago I learned a few books of O'Growney in the National Schools, but since then I have not followed up the language. I believe that in our generation, within the lifetime of the youngest member of this House, Irish will not become a commercial language in the country. We are asked here to hinder or to help. That is the position Deputy Conlon has forced us into.
I disagree with Private Bill legislation so far as this and other Bills are concerned. Deputy Redmond said it is quite right for Deputies like himself and Deputy Rice to bring in Private Bills dealing with Workmen's Compensation and Town Tenants. I disagree with that, because I believe these are matters the Government should deal with. This Bill we are discussing is also one that should have been introduced by a Minister rather than by Deputy Conlon. We are now forced into the position of helping rather than hindering this Bill in order to give effect to the Article of the Constitution for which those of us who were here at the time are responsible.
With regard to the Incorporated Law Society's protest, I look upon the Society as the strongest and most autocratic trade union we have in this country. I am sure they would not like themselves referred to— Deputy Wolfe and others would not like it—as members of an ordinary trade union.
I would, indeed.
They are in the powerful position of being able to demand, and get, whatever fees they like to impose in the country from those placed in the unfortunate position of having to seek their advice and assistance.
The fees are laid down by statute.
Deputy Wolfe is a very able advocate, and he is an influential and important member of his profession. His case is that the Incorporated Law Society should be consulted and the majority of them should agree before this House attempted to pass a measure of this kind. Would Deputy Wolfe say that before, say, teachers' salaries are reduced the teachers should be consulted? The Deputy did not say that the workers on the Shannon Scheme, who have to work for a miserable pittance of 32/- a week, should have taken a vote as to whether or not they would work for that amount? This is the first time that we have Deputy Wolfe adopting that róle in this House. We know that 110 out of 977 practising solicitors in this country protested against this Bill——
I would like to correct the Deputy, because he is wrong there. There were only 8 members out of 118 who proposed an amendment. I am glad to see Deputy Davin, even at this late hour, speaking against a trade union.
I do not want to put myself in a false position. We were told that there were 977 practising solicitors, and 600 odd were members of the Incorporated Law Society. Then 110 out of 118 present at a properly convened meeting——
That is disputed, and I do not accept that. It is referred to in a circular which Deputies have received as a general meeting of the members. A general meeting of the members, according to what I know of meetings of trade unions, cannot be misrepresented or stated to be a delegate meeting.
I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.