Before the section is put, I would like to draw the attention of the President to a statement which he made last Friday night in concluding the debate on the Second Stage and when arguing for the deletion of Article 17 from the Constitution. I am quoting from the Official Report of the 29th April, column 1102, at the foot of the page:
I was told—perhaps this is only second-hand and I cannot vouch for it—that Deputies on the Cumann na nGaedheal Benches were so disgusted with the whole performance that they used to walk into the room and say "Sign that for me."
Now, sir, it is quite clear that that statement with all its implications was not made by the President on his own authority. He gave it, in his own words, as second-hand. I should like also to make the point that the statement might be regarded as a joke, but for the context and the atmosphere in which it was made. It was made when the President was arguing that a certain procedure was so humiliating that nobody should subject himself to it. I want to suggest that that statement clearly implies an accusation against certain members of the House that they got somebody else to sign their names to the Oath required by Article 17 of the Constitution. They can answer for themselves, but it seems to me, and it has been suggested to me by many people, that there is in that statement of the President, as conveyed to the House from another source, the clear implication that the officer who was empowered to administer the Oath that the officer who did administer the Oath, actually connived at that and did more —that he signed the document himself for those Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies. That meaning appears to me sir, quite plain and the accusation is made against a person who is of necessity dumb and cannot defend himself.
I was not myself concerned because, as you are aware, the Ceann Comhairle has no responsibility for the administration of the Oath to Deputies. It is done by an officer appointed by the Governor-General, but I have no hesitation in saying that the author of that statement, the person who made that statement to the President, intended to deceive him or else made the statement with a reckless disregard for the truth. There is no truth in it. It is to be noted that the President cannot vouch for it, but when the Leader of this House, the President of the Executive Council, speaking from his place in the House gives publicity— that is what happened—to a statement of that kind, the statement assumes a very considerable importance indeed. A great many people have attached importance to it, and the words get a meaning owing to the position of the member of the House who uttered them. I should like, sir, to invite the President to join with me in saying, now that the atmosphere which we had on Friday night has completely gone and we are much calmer, that it is beyond the bounds of possibility that the particular officer in question or any other officer signed for a Deputy in that particular way, in other words, actively assisted in a fraud upon the Constitution and upon the revenue. I should like the President now to withdraw the authority of his name and his office from that particular statement.